Influenza viruses have been intensively studied for decades, but a surprising amount of their basic biology is poorly understood. We use a combination of molecular virology, mass spectrometry and advanced microscopy to uncover the fundamental biological properties of these important viral pathogens.
We study how virus particles form and what makes them infectious. We work particularly on the influenza viruses, a family which causes seasonal and pandemic influenza in humans, as well as being a major pathogen of livestock.
If you are interested in working with us and would like to know how we approach this work, and how we support each other as we do so, please have a look at our lab handbook. Some of our main areas of research are outlined below.
What are influenza viruses made from?
We are interested in how influenza viruses can produce such a diverse set of proteins despite their small genomes. For example, we discovered that influenza viruses, and many of their relatives, encode a novel class of cryptic ‘upstream proteins.’ We also study how the proteins that influenza viruses encode are modified during infections, and how this affects the course of infection and immunity.
How do influenza virus particles form?
We are interested in the components that can be used to make influenza virus particles. Using mass spectrometry, we showed that influenza virus particles are heterogeneous assemblies of viral and host-encoded material, and we have examined how their composition can vary between hosts, strains and conditions. We have used these approaches to build detailed, integrative models of virus particles as well as to better understand vaccine production methods. We also study the formation of virus particles directly, looking particularly at the striking but understudied filamentous virus particles that are characteristic of natural influenza infections.
What makes influenza virus particles infectious?
Our long-term ambition as a group is to understand how the diverse mixture of variable virus particles that are produced from infected cells interact to shape the course of influenza virus infections within and between hosts.
As a group, we are particularly interested in asking questions about viral molecular biology. However, viruses operate across a wide range of scales, and thanks to our collaborators so do we. Many of our projects involve working closely with other groups, including structural biologists, immunologists, cell biologists and biomedical illustrators.
Influenza Virus Resources
Influenza Virus Toolkit
We are leading the development of the Influenza Virus Toolkit, a national reagent resource which aims to simplify the challenges of preserving, identifying and sharing the reagents developed by influenza research groups. The Toolkit will be developed in collaboration with the MRC Protein Phosphorylation and Ubiquitylation Unit at the University of Dundee (PPU) and the MRC Human Immunology Unit at the University of Oxford (HIU) over the period 2022 – 2023. If you have any questions or would like to donate reagents to the resource, please contact Ed Hutchinson.
Are you considering starting an influenza virology project? This article answers background questions that often come up when people start their first research project on influenza viruses.
Influenza Models and Images
High-resolution images, animations, 3D prints and educational materials relating to influenza virus particles, produced in collaboration with The Glasgow School of Art, can be downloaded here. Further educational materials can be found here.
Members of the group have a keen interest in public engagement and communication. We’ve developed many public engagement activities, from podcasts to augmented reality apps, and from 3D prints to papercraft activities.
- You can download 3D models, images and worksheets about virus particles here and here.
- The Visible Viruses augmented reality app can be found here.
- The SARS-CoV-2 Spike Mutation Explorer, an app that helps to explain SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, can be found here.
- Other projects, including the Virus Snowflakes papercraft activity and the Art Goes Viral colouring book, can be found in the CVR’s Educational Resources section, here.
Talks and Other Media
If you'd like to hear more about our work and how we do it, we've been in a few podcasts and videos.
- Léa Meyer talks about upstream gene products here.
- TWiV discuss out 2020 upstream gene product paper here.
- External reserach webinars from 2019, 2021 and 2021.
Communication and Visualisation
- Some of our collaborations with The Glasgow School of Art are described in this video.
- Annabel Slater talks about developing a detailed model of SARS-CoV-2 here.
- Sarah Iannucci talks about creating an app to explore SARS-CoV-2 mutations here.
- Ed Hutchinson talks about the Virus Snowflakes outreach activity in this prize lecture.
- Ed and Sarah talk about visualising and researching viruses here.
- Jack Hirst was a host of the CVR's podcast, whose archive is here.
Previous Group Members
We’ve been lucky to work with many fantastic researchers who are now continuing their careers elsewhere. They are:
Michaela Conley (Analytical Services Scientist, Sartorius), Seema Jasim (Associate Clinical Scientist, NHS Lothian), Pippa McIlwaine (Medical Writer, Oxford PharmaGenesis), Liz Sloan (Medical Writer, Oxford PharmaGenesis)
Jack Hirst (Scientist, AstraZeneca)
Hong Chen, Austra Cukura, Daniel Goldfarb, Sarah Iannucci, Ryan Imrie, Elif Kurum, Huijing (Alana) Li, Jake MacLeod, Janhavi Mada, Urja Dharmesh Mavani, Tom Moreton, Naina Nair, Lauren Orr, Vaidehi Patel, Yuan Shu, Nawal Soom, Rachael Suétt, Luke Thorley
Daniel Sanchez, Patrick Shearer, Laura Burgess Tornaletti, Joanna Wojtus
Vacation students and freelancers
Amy Burke, Megan McConnell, Daniel Millar, Adeola Onumonu, Annabel Slater, Rachael Suétt