Prof Edward Holmes
Prof Eddie Holmes is known for his work on the evolution and emergence of infectious diseases, particularly the mechanisms by which RNA viruses jump species boundaries to emerge in humans and other animals. He currently holds an ARC Australian Laureate Fellowship. He has studied the emergence and spread of such pathogens as avian influenza virus, dengue virus, HIV, hepatitis C virus, myxoma virus, RHDV and Yersinia pestis. His previous appointments include Verne M. Willaman Chair in the Life Sciences and Eberly College of Science Distinguished Senior Scholar (2007-2012) at the Pennsylvania State University, USA, and Affiliate Member of the Fogarty International Centre (2005-2012), National Institutes of Health, USA. From 1999-2004 he was Fellow of New College, Oxford. He is also a Guest Professor at the Chinese CDC, Beijing, and an Adjunct Professor at Fudan University, Shanghai.
His interest in the emergence and spread of novel viral infections began in the late 1980s/early 1990s, as this was a time of the highest rates of HIV-associated deaths and when hepatitis C virus was first identified. He has spent almost 30 years using molecular genetic techniques to understand the determinants of cross-species pathogen transmission and emergence. His work has helped define the barriers faced by viruses as they emerge in new hosts, determine the range of transmission patterns exhibited by emerging viruses, and establish genetic models for host switching.
Currently, he is studying why some pathogens are particularly likely to jump between species and spread, and using metagenomic technology to discover novel viruses and determine the possible microbial cause of disease syndromes (e.g. emerging tick-borne disease in Australia). The data generated will be used to reveal some of the fundamental roles of virus ecology and evolution, and understand the measurable impact of the novel infections on public and animal health. He is also using ‘ancient DNA’ to investigate the causes and patterns of spread of past pandemics such as plague and cholera.