University of St Andrews

Molecular and Structural Virology

Viral diseases remain a major threat to public health and the economy of both developed and developing countries. The worldwide AIDS pandemic is but one example of a newly emerged virus disease, other potential threats come from Ebola, Nipah and Hantaan viruses. Older, more established, human viruses such as influenza, measles, hepatitis and the common cold still cause major health problems.

Research within the Molecular Virology Unit is concerned with further understanding how viruses cause disease at the molecular level and in using the information gained from such studies for medical purposes. Research themes include:

RNA viruses, including Picornaviruses (e.g. Foot-and-Mouth Disease Virus), paramyxoviruses (e.g. mumps, measles and parainfluenza viruses) and Bunyawera viruses (MDR, RER, RME).

  • Structural Virology (GLT, RER, RME)

  • Emerging RNA viruses (RME, RER, MDR)

  • Viruses, immunity, and vaccine design (RER, RME)

  • Virus persistence (MDR, RER)

  • Papilloma viruses and human cancers (CSH)

  • Recombinant viruses as treatments for cancer (RI)

  • The isolation of novel anti-viral drugs (RER, MDR, GLT, GK)

Research Group website

Staff List: academic(5)
click name for details
Hughes, Dr David J Research Fellow
(School of Biology)
01334 467197
Molecular and cellular biology of virus-host interactions
Cell Biology, Immunology, Molecular Biology, Virology
Jackson, Dr David BSRC Fellow / Honorary Lecturer
(School of Biology)
01334 463422
Molecular biology of influenza viruses and arenaviruses
Molecular Biology, Virology
Randall, Prof Richard Professor of Molecular Virology
(School of Biology)
01334 463397
Viruses and innate immunity
Cell biology, immunology, Molecular biology, Virology
Prof Richard Randall

Viruses, immunity and vaccines

  A major part of our research effort has been involved with studies on the induction of protective immunity to viruses, with the long term aim of producing novel vaccines and anti-viral drugs to a variety of human and animal viruses, including paramyxoviruses and HIV. In addition, we have a very active research programme concerned with exploring the molecular biology of paramyxoviruses which cause a number of important acute human and animal diseases, e.g. measles, mumps, rinderpest, and human and animal respiratory illness.

We documented for the first time the molecular basis of how many Paramyxoviruses circumvent the interferon response, a major component of innate immunity. Basically, these viruses encode a protein which targets cellular proteins (STATs) essential for interferon signalling for proteasome-mediated degradation. In addition, to blocking IFN signalling we have also shown that these viruses specifically inhibit the production of IFN.

We are currently working on the molecular basis of the targeted degradation of STAT and the mechanism of inhibition of IFN production. Furthermore, these findings have revealed that the way viruses interact with the immune response may be an important factor which limits their ability to cross species barriers and how they establish persistent infections. Not only are these results of fundamental interest in virology but they also point a way forward for generating and manufacturing attenuated virus vaccines. Thus it is possible to specifically engineer viruses to make them sensitive to interferon, thereby rendering them non pathogenic but highly immunogenic.

We have also recently developed methods for engineering human cells, that are used in vaccine manufacture and virus diagnostics, so that can not respond to IFN. Such IFN non-responsive cells are better able to support the replication of a variety of wild type DNA and RNA viruses, as well as candidate attenuated vaccines.



Ryan, Prof Martin Professor of Translational Virology
(School of Biology)
01334 463403
Picornavirus replication and translational virology
Cell biology, Molecular biology, Virology
Taylor, Prof Garry Professor of Molecular Biophysics
(School of Biology)
01334 467301
Structural biology of infection and immunity
Biochemistry, Chemical biology, Enzymologoy, Structural biology, Virology