skip to primary navigationskip to content

Cambridge Infectious Diseases

An Interdisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Cambridge

Studying at Cambridge


Dr Yorgo Modis

Dr Yorgo  Modis

Molecular mechanisms of cell entry, evolution and innate immune recognition of enveloped RNA viruses

Yorgo Modis is accepting applications for PhD students.

Yorgo Modis is available for consultancy.

Department of Medicine
University of Cambridge
MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology
Francis Crick Avenue

Cambridge CB2 0QH
Office Phone: 01223 267282



1986-1992    International Baccalaureate from the International School of Geneva (Switzerland)               

1992-1995    B.A. in Biochemistry (First Class) from the University of Cambridge (U.K.)

1995-1999    Ph.D. (Thesis Advisor: Rik Wierenga) from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg (Germany)

1999-2005    Postdoctoral Fellow (Thesis Advisor: Stephen Harrison), Harvard Medical School, Boston (U.S.A.)


Positions and experience

1999-2000       EMBO Postdoctoral Fellow with Prof. Stephen C. Harrison, Harvard Medical School

2000-2005       HFSPO Postdoctoral Fellow with Prof. Stephen C. Harrison, Harvard Medical School

2005-2010       Assistant Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University

2010-2014       Associate Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University

2014-               Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow, Dept. of Medicine, University of Cambridge

Research themes

Pathogen Biology and Evolution:
Host-Pathogen Interactions:
Connections in North America:
  • Yale University
  • University of Virginia
  • Brown University
Connections in Europe:
  • Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine (Edinburgh)
  • University of Glasgow

Departments and Institutes

Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow
MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology:

Research Interests

The overarching goal of my research program is to gain a mechanistic understanding at the molecular level of how important pathogens interact with their host cells during infection. We seek to understand three major questions: (1) How do spherical enveloped viruses assemble and recognize host cells? (2) How do enveloped viruses deliver their genome into the cytoplasm? (3) How are innate immune responses to microbial nucleic acids generated, amplified and regulated? We employ a diverse set of complementary biophysical approaches including X-ray crystallography, electron microscopy, solution biophysics, fluorescence microscopy and cell biological approaches to understand the mechanisms that underlie these processes in molecular-level detail. Each of our projects has important potential applications in global health.

Recent work in the laboratory has focused on the roles of envelope glycoproteins in the assembly and cell-entry mechanisms of viruses from the flavivirus, bunyavirus and pestivirus families. We also study how nucleic acids derived from these viruses are recognized by the innate immune receptors MDA5 and TLR9, in the cytoplasm and in endocytic compartments, respectively.


  • Evolution
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Host-Pathogen Interaction
  • Virology
  • Innate Immunity
  • Virion assembly
  • Structural Biology
  • Enzyme
  • Signalling
  • Toll-like receptors


  • Helminths
  • Viral encephalitis
  • Structural Biology
  • C. elegans
  • Hepatitis C
  • Dengue fever


  • X-Ray Crystallography
  • Confocal microscopy
  • Cell culture

Key Publications

Adel Nour & Yorgo Modis (2014). Endosomal vesicles as vehicles for viral genomes. Trends Cell Biol., 24, 449-454.

Yorgo Modis (2014). Relating structure to evolution in class II viral membrane fusion proteins. Curr. Op. Virol., 5, 34-41.

Adel M. Nour, Yue Li, Joseph Wolenski & Yorgo Modis (2013). Viral membrane fusion and nucleocapsid delivery into the cytoplasm are distinct events in some flaviviruses. PLOS Pathog., 9, e1003585.

Yue Li, Jimin Wang, Ryuta Kanai & Yorgo Modis (2013). Crystal structure of glycoprotein E2 from bovine viral diarrhea virus. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 110, 6805-10.

Moshe Dessau & Yorgo Modis (2013). Crystal structure of glycoprotein C from Rift Valley fever virus. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 110, 1696-1701.

Moshe Dessau, Daniel Goldhill, Robert C. McBride, Paul E. Turner & Yorgo Modis (2012). Selective pressure causes an RNA virus to trade reproductive fitness for increased structural and thermal stability of a viral enzyme. PLoS Genet., 8, e1003102.

Ian C. Berke, Xiong Yu, Yorgo Modis & Edward H. Egelman (2012). MDA5 assembles into a polar helical filament on double-stranded RNA. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 109, 18437-41.

Ian C. Berke & Yorgo Modis (2012). MDA5 cooperatively forms dimers and ATP-sensitive filaments upon binding double-stranded RNA. EMBO J., 31, 1714-26.

Yue Li, Ian C. Berke & Yorgo Modis (2012). DNA binding to proteolytically activated TLR9 is sequence-independent and enhanced by DNA curvature. EMBO J. 31, 919-31.

Other Publications

For a complete list of publications, see: