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Professor Jonathan Luke Heeney


I obtained my Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from the Ontario Veterinary College in 1984. After an externship with Peter Kennedy at UC Davis, I decided to pursue pathology and trained under Ted Valli in anatomic and clinical pathology receiving a DVSc in Pathology from the U of Guelph (1986). Subsequently I moved from Canada to SJ O'Brien's lab at the NIH in Maryland where I completed my PhD on the oncogenic transformation of B-cells by a bovine retrovirus, BLV. I became interested in genetic susceptibility to infectious disease and stayed on for postdoctoral work with O'Brien where I studied an outbreak of Feline Infectious Peritonitis virus in Cheetahs. I then moved to California as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Pathology at the Stanford School of Medicine to study a human cancer caused by HTLV-1, obtaining valuable technologies from the Crabtree (NFAT, T-cel activation) and Herzenberg (FACS) labs. After my fellowship in Human Pathology, I moved to study Transplant and retroviral disease pathology at TNO the Netherlands with P Bentvelzen and became interested in the origins of HIV and the challenge of how to design/develop a vaccine variable and immunosupressive viruses. I built and established my own lab, the Lab of Viral Pathogenesis at TNO which grew to become the Department of Virology which I headed for more than 10 years. After becoming an associate Professor at the University of Leiden, in 2007 I moved to Cambridge to start the Lab of Viral Zoonotics. I am a Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, Fellow of the Linnean Society, the Royal College of Medicine, and Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists. In 2012 I received an ScD from the University of Cambridge for my work in Viral Immunology and Immunopathology. In 2014 I organised the University wide multidisiplinary Darwin College Lecture series on "Plagues", not knowing that later in the year that the smouldering Ebola outbreak in West Africa would explode into a devastating epidemic.

Subject groups/Research projects

Comparative Pathobiology:
Infection and Immunity:

virology, viral immunopathology, evolution, comparative pathology, infectious diseases, vaccinology, viral/host co-evolution

oncology and genetics

Genetics and Oncology:

Departments and Institutes

Cambridge Infectious Diseases:

Research Interests

The following article is a description of the research in our laboratory. What Darwin didn't know: viruses and evolution

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.

Lecture: One Health and the Future of the Veterinary Profession


Members of the Laboratory of Viral Zoonotics

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Alumni of the LVZ

  • Mariana Varela, Wellcome Trust Intermediate Fellow, Glasgow.
  • Mark Sheperd, Research Associate (IT, UCS), Cambridge
  • Lisa Landskron, (MSc/PhD, Vienna)
  • Julia Weinelt, (MSc/PhD, Vienna)
  • Rachel Lai, Post Doctoral Research Associate, (NIMR),  Mill Hill, London, UK.
  • Nick Bexfield BVetMed PhD (Cambridge) DSAM DipECVIM, Lecturer in Nottingham
  • Tim Fitzmaurice, Research Associate, Dept of Medicine (Addenbrookes), Cambridge.
  • Anna Albecka, Post Doctoral Research Associate, Dept. of Pathology, Cambridge..
  • Judith Heaney, Post Doctoral Research Associate.
  • Michele Lai, Research Assistant (now PhD student, Univ. of Genoa).
  • Rosie Hancock, Veterinary student Cambridge
  • Ishla Seager, Ireland
  • Aurélien Simona, MD, (MSc at LVZ) now doing Immunology & infectious disease training at U of Geneva
  • Antonia Meyer, Germany.
  • Martina Schneider, (MSc at LVZ), now PhD candidate (Vienna)
  • Suzy Blows, HR & PA, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge.
  • Hanna Dreja, Research Scientist, Abcam, Cambridge.
  • Fabian Schmidt, Postdoc at the Aaron Diamond Research Center, New York.
  • Mehran Bhatti, MPhil graduate now at Johnson & Johnson in Switzerland
  • Ed Greenwood, Postdoc with the Lehner lab, CIMR Cambridge.

Funding and Support

  • Innovate UK: Emerging Vaccine Antigen Insert Cassettes (EVAC)
  • Innovate UK: Tri-Valent Lassa, Ebola Marburg Vaccine (Tri-LEMvac)
  • The Wellcome Trust
  • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • The National Institutes of Health
  • The European Commission
  • Kennel Club Charitable Trust


    Main collaborators

      • Helen Baxendale, Consultant Immunologist Papworth Hospital
      • Dinakantha Kumararatne, Consultant Immunologist, Addenbrooke's Hospital
      • Ranier Doffinger, Dept of Clinical Biochemistry and Immunology, Addenbrooke's.
      • Robin Weiss, University College London, UK
      • Susan Barnett and colleagues, Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics
      • Giuseppe Pantaleo, CHUV, Lausanne, Switzerland
      • Ralf Wagner, University of Regensburg, Germany
      • William Bernal, Kings College London, UK
      • Sheena McCormack, Clinical Trial Unit, London, UK
      • Mariano Esteban, Centro Nacional de Biotecnologia, Madrid, Spain
      • Quentin Sattentau, University of Oxford
      • Mahima Swamy, U of Dundee and Adrian Hayday, King's College, London.
      • Peter Liljestrom, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholn, Sweden
      • Paul Kellam, Julian Parkhill and Gordon Dougan, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Hinxton, Cambridge
      • Winifred Weissenhorn, Joseph Fourier University, Grenoble, France
      • Graeme Alexander, Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
      • Ken Smith, Paul Lyons, Department of Medicine, University of Cambridge
      • Paul Lehner, Gillian Griffiths, CIMR, Cambridge
      • Leo James, LMB, Cambridge
      • Marc Veldhoen, BBSRC Babraham, Cambridge.
      • Jonathan Weber, Imperial College London
      • Martin Curran, Suzy English, HPA Addenbrookes, Cambridge
      • Mario Caccamo & Richard Leggett, TGAC, Norwich
      • Marc Veldhoen, BBSRC Babraham Institute, Cambridge.
      • Steven Holland, Lab of Clinical Infectious Diseases, NIAID, NIH Bethesda.
      • Genoveffa Franchini, Vaccine Branch, NIH, NCI, Bethesda.



      • Genomics
      • SIV
      • Molecular Biology
      • Host-Pathogen Interaction
      • Veterinary pathology
      • Pathogenesis
      • Vaccines
      • Infectious Diseases
      • Gene expression
      • Immunity
      • Norovirus
      • B Cells
      • Host-Pathogen interaction
      • Emerging viral diseases
      • Bioinformatics
      • Pathogens
      • Zoonoses
      • Resistance and immunity and infection
      • Evolution
      • Immunology
      • Virology
      • Whole genome sequencing
      • Immunogenetics
      • Viral discovery
      • Hepatology
      • HIV
      • Filovirus
      • Innate Immunity
      • RNA virus
      • FACS
      • Immune-mediated disease

      Collaborators outside this directory

      Key Publications

      • Draper, S. J. and J. L. Heeney Viruses as vaccine vectors for infectious diseases and cancer. Nat Rev Microbiol 8(1): 62-73. [PubMed]
      • Weiss, R. A. and J. L. Heeney (2009). Infectious diseases: An ill wind for wild chimps? Nature 460(7254): 470-1. [PubMed]
      • Mooij, P., S. S. Balla-Jhagjhoorsingh, N. Beenhakker, P. van Haaften, I. Baak, I. G. Nieuwenhuis, S. Heidari, H. Wolf, M. J. Frachette, K. Bieler, N. Sheppard, A. Harari, P. A. Bart, P. Liljestrom, R. Wagner, G. Pantaleo and J. L. Heeney (2009). Comparison of human and rhesus macaque T-cell responses elicited by boosting with NYVAC encoding human immunodeficiency virus type 1 clade C immunogens. J Virol 83(11): 5881-9. [PubMed]
      • Wilson, S. J., B. L. Webb, L. M. Ylinen, E. Verschoor, J. L. Heeney and G. J. Towers (2008). Independent evolution of an antiviral TRIMCyp in rhesus macaques. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 105(9): 3557-62. [PubMed]
      • Verschoor, E. J., M. J. Groenewoud, Z. Fagrouch, A. Kewalapat, S. van Gessel, M. J. Kik and J. L. Heeney (2008). Molecular characterization of the first polyomavirus from a New World primate: squirrel monkey polyomavirus. J Gen Virol 89(Pt 1): 130-7. [PubMed]
      • Corbett, M., W. M. Bogers, J. L. Heeney, S. Gerber, C. Genin, A. Didierlaurent, H. Oostermeijer, R. Dubbes, G. Braskamp, S. Lerondel, C. E. Gomez, M. Esteban, R. Wagner, I. Kondova, P. Mooij, S. Balla-Jhagjhoorsingh, N. Beenhakker, G. Koopman, S. van der Burg, J. P. Kraehenbuhl and A. Le Pape (2008). Aerosol immunization with NYVAC and MVA vectored vaccines is safe, simple, and immunogenic. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 105(6): 2046-51. [PubMed]
      • Harari, A., P. A. Bart, W. Stohr, G. Tapia, M. Garcia, E. Medjitna-Rais, S. Burnet, C. Cellerai, O. Erlwein, T. Barber, C. Moog, P. Liljestrom, R. Wagner, H. Wolf, J. P. Kraehenbuhl, M. Esteban, J. Heeney, M. J. Frachette, J. Tartaglia, S. McCormack, A. Babiker, J. Weber and G. Pantaleo (2008). An HIV-1 clade C DNA prime, NYVAC boost vaccine regimen induces reliable, polyfunctional, and long-lasting T cell responses. J Exp Med 205(1): 63-77. [PubMed]
      • Verschoor, E. J., M. J. Groenewoud, Z. Fagrouch, A. Kewalapat, S. van Gessel, M. J. Kik and J. L. Heeney (2008). Molecular characterization of the first polyomavirus from a New World primate: squirrel monkey polyomavirus. J Gen Virol 89(Pt 1): 130-7. [PubMed]
      • Mooij, P., S. S. Balla-Jhagjhoorsingh, G. Koopman, N. Beenhakker, P. van Haaften, I. Baak, I. G. Nieuwenhuis, I. Kondova, R. Wagner, H. Wolf, C. E. Gomez, J. L. Najera, V. Jimenez, M. Esteban and J. L. Heeney (2008). Differential CD4+ versus CD8+ T-cell responses elicited by different poxvirus-based human immunodeficiency virus type 1 vaccine candidates provide comparable efficacies in primates. J Virol 82(6): 2975-88. [PubMed]
      • Rollier, C. S., G. Paranhos-Baccala, E. J. Verschoor, B. E. Verstrepen, J. A. Drexhage, Z. Fagrouch, J. L. Berland, F. Komurian-Pradel, B. Duverger, N. Himoudi, C. Staib, M. Meyr, M. Whelan, J. A. Whelan, V. C. Adams, E. Larrea, J. I. Riezu, J. J. Lasarte, B. Bartosch, F. L. Cosset, W. J. Spaan, H. M. Diepolder, G. R. Pape, G. Sutter, G. Inchauspe and J. L. Heeney (2007). Vaccine-induced early control of hepatitis C virus infection in chimpanzees fails to impact on hepatic PD-1 and chronicity. Hepatology 45(3): 602-13. [PubMed]
      • Heeney, J. L., A. G. Dalgleish and R. A. Weiss (2006). Origins of HIV and the evolution of resistance to AIDS. Science 313(5786): 462-6. [PubMed]
      • Heeney, J. L. (2006). Zoonotic viral diseases and the frontier of early diagnosis, control and prevention. J Intern Med 260(5): 399-408. [PubMed]
      • Heeney, J. L. and S. A. Plotkin (2006). Immunological correlates of protection from HIV infection and disease. Nat Immunol 7(12): 1281-4. [PubMed]
      • Verschoor, E. J., Z. Fagrouch, I. Bontjer, H. Niphuis and J. L. Heeney (2004). A novel simian immunodeficiency virus isolated from a Schmidt's guenon (Cercopithecus ascanius schmidti). J Gen Virol 85(Pt 1): 21-4. [PubMed]
      • Mooij, P., I. G. Nieuwenhuis, C. J. Knoop, R. W. Doms, W. M. Bogers, P. J. Ten Haaft, H. Niphuis, W. Koornstra, K. Bieler, J. Kostler, B. Morein, A. Cafaro, B. Ensoli, R. Wagner and J. L. Heeney (2004). Qualitative T-helper responses to multiple viral antigens correlate with vaccine-induced immunity to simian/human immunodeficiency virus infection. J Virol 78(7): 3333-42. [PubMed]
      • Tenner-Racz, K., C. Stahl Hennig, K. Uberla, H. Stoiber, R. Ignatius, J. Heeney, R. M. Steinman and P. Racz (2004). Early protection against pathogenic virus infection at a mucosal challenge site after vaccination with attenuated simian immunodeficiency virus. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 101(9): 3017-22. [PubMed]
      • Koopman, G., D. Mortier, S. Hofman, H. Niphuis, Z. Fagrouch, S. Norley, G. Sutter, P. Liljestrom and J. L. Heeney (2004). Vaccine protection from CD4+ T-cell loss caused by simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) mac251 is afforded by sequential immunization with three unrelated vaccine vectors encoding multiple SIV antigens. J Gen Virol 85(Pt 10): 2915-24. [PubMed]
      • Verschoor, E. J., S. Langenhuijzen, I. Bontjer, Z. Fagrouch, H. Niphuis, K. S. Warren, K. Eulenberger and J. L. Heeney (2004). The phylogeography of orangutan foamy viruses supports the theory of ancient repopulation of Sumatra. J Virol 78(22): 12712-6. [PubMed]

      Recent Books

      Plagues: Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 9781316644768

      Plagues | Popular Science | Cambridge University Press