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Jonathan Heeney

Viral Zoonotics

The Laboratory of Viral Zoonotics (LVZ) focuses on cross species transmission of viruses, and the co-evolution of viruses and their hosts including the evolution of immune mechanisms of disease, disease resistance and prevention. Not only has this interest led to the discovery of a number of new viruses, the genetic comparison of host and viral sequences from the same individual and sample have provided powerful genetic tools to solve some of nature's intriguing mysteries. Currently this laboratory applies molecular technologies to address important questions concerning zoonotic infections of importance to both veterinary and human health. We designed and run the newest, state of the art Biocontainment laboratory (BSL3) at the University and operate a new multiparamenter Flow sorting facility for single cell sorting of infectious samples under BSL3 conditions. This new facility enables the isolation and direct sequencing of single cells of different types infected with a variety of different viral agents or transforming plasmids. There is full spectrum of Viral-Immunopathology projects, ranging from the evolution of Zoonotic pathogens, characterisation of the Virome in "One Health and Disease" and impact of viral infections in primary immunodeficiencies. Research in the LVZ is divided into 3 broad areas; genomics, viromics and immunity.

Studies also focus on understanding successful host immune responses to RNA viruses. Translationally this information is utilized for the rational design of novel vaccines for the prevention of diseases caused by notoriously variable viral pathogens. Within the "immunity" programme, the lab continues to address the complex issues of immune correlates and to develop strategies to systematically dissect vaccine-induced immune responses that facilitate vaccine efficacy. Current vaccine programmes include structure based vaccine development for HIV and hepatitis C, and rational vaccine design by escape analysis.


We designed and run the newest, state of the art biological Containment Level 3 (CL3) laboratory at the University as well as operate a new multiparamenter Flow sorting facility for single cell sorting of infectious samples under CL3 conditions. This new facility enables the isolation and direct sequencing of single cells of different types infected with a variety of different viral agents or transforming plasmids. We have made both our CL3 facilities and FACS CL3 Suite available for use by members of the University. 

Key Publications


Edited by Jonathan L. Heeney & Sven Friedemann with contributions from Christopher Dobson, Mary Dobson, Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Angela McLean, Stephen J. O'Brien, Ian Morris, Mikko Hypponen, Stephen Emmott, Rowan Williams
Cambridge University Press 2017. 

Heeney JL. Ebola:  Hidden reservoirs. Nature. 2015 Nov 26;527(7579):453-5.

Simian immunodeficiency virus infection of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) shares features of both pathogenic and non-pathogenic lentiviral infections Greenwood EJD, Schmidt F, Kondova I, Niphuis H, Hodara V, Clissold L, McLay K, Guerra B, Redrobe S, Giavedoni LD, Lanford RE, Murthy KK, Rouet F, Heeney JL PLOS Pathogens 2015. Sept. 11;11(9):e1005146.

Intestinal intraepithelial lymphocyte activation promotes innate antiviral resistance. Swamy M, Abeler-Dörner L, Chettle J, Mahlakõiv T, Goubau D, Chakravarty P, Ramsay G, Reis e Sousa C, Staeheli P, Blacklaws B, Heeney JL, and Hayday A. Nature Comm. 2015 May 19;6:7090.

Clearance of genotype 1b Hepatitis C Virus in chimpanzees in the presence of vaccine-induced E1-neutralizing antibodies Verstrepen, B.E., Depla, E., Rollier, C.S., Mares, G., Drexhage, J.A.R., Priem, S., Verschoor, E.J., Koopman, G., Granier, C., Dreux, M., Cosset, F.L., Maertens, G., Heeney, J.L.. Journal of Infectious Diseases. 2011 Sep 15;204(6):837-44.

Comparison of human and rhesus macaque T-cell responses elicited by boosting with NYVAC encoding HIV-1 clade C immunogens. Mooij, P., Balla-Jhagjhoorsingh, S.S., Beenhakker, N., van Haaften, P., Baak, I., Nieuwenhuis, I.G., Heidar, S., Wolf, H., Frachette, M-J., Bieler, K., Sheppard, N., Harari, A., Bart, P.A., Liljeström, P., Wagner, R., Pantaleo, G., Heeney, J.L. Journal of Virology. 2009 Jun; 83(11);5881-5889.

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Jonathan Heeney 

Professor Jonathan Heeney

Professor of Comparative Pathology

Group members:  Astrid Gall, Alana Thackray, Samuel Stubbs, Osama Eisa, Chinedu Ugwu, Giacomo Gorini, Paul Tonks

Laboratory of Viral Zoonotics

    Plain English

    Our group’s focus of interest is in the following areas:

    1) collecting liver samples from patients to identify undiagnosed liver disease;

    2) conducting studies on immunosuppressed patients to establish whether these have viruses present in their system that healthy individuals don’t have present;

    3) understanding the mechanics of RNA viruses like Ebola and Marburg in order to develop vaccines and also to understand why they have jumped from their animal host to that of humans.`