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Our research focus is to understand the fundamental processes that govern the evolution of pathogens that change over time, with most of our work on influenza viruses, and to use this understanding to potentially predict their evolution.  This research is highly interdisciplinary and involves mathematical, computational, theoretical, and experimental work in evolution, virology, immunology, and epidemiology, to understand and quantify the selection pressures on the viruses and the constraints on the evolution.  We work closely with experimental virologists, immunologists and clinicians.  The work has significant translational impact including an integral role in the World Health Organization (WHO) influenza vaccine strain selection process since 2004, and new generation seasonal and pandemic influenza virus vaccines gearing up for phase II clinical trails.

Current research topics include:

  • Advanced vaccination and immunity management strategies to protect from influenza virus infection
  • Support to Centres for Excellence in Influenza Research and Surveillance (CEIRS) regarding human and animal influenza surveillance
  • Research on influenza pathogenesis and host response
  • Linking antigenic and genetic variation of Dengue (fever) to individuals
  • Collaborative management platform for the detection and analyses of (re-)emerging and foodborne outbreaks in Europe
  • Providing ongoing support and advice to WHO influenza strain selection and vaccine development meetings for both Northern and Southern hemispheres

Key Publications

Derek J. Smith, Alan S. Lapedes, et al, 2004. Mapping the Antigenic and Genetic Evolution of Influenza Virus. Science, DOI 10.1126/science.1097211

Colin A. Russell, Terry C. Jones, et al, 2008. The Global Circulation of Seasonal Influenza A (H3N2) Viruses. Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1154137

Björn F. Koel, David F. Burke, et al, 2013. Substitutions Near the Receptor Binding Site Determine Major Antigenic Change During Influenza Virus Evolution. Science, DOI 10.1126/science.1244730

J. M. Fonville, S. H. Wilks, et al, 2014. Antibody landscapes after influenza virus infection or vaccination. Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1256427

Colin A. Russell, Judith M. Fonville, et al, 2012 The Potential for Respiratory Droplet–Transmissible A/H5N1 Influenza Virus to Evolve in a Mammalian Host. Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1222526

Full list of publications


Contact Details

Group Leader

Professor Derek Smith

Department of Zoology
University of Cambridge
Downing St

01223  (3)34872

Group Members