Sydney Science Forum: Virus expert Professor Eddie Holmes on epidemics

18 March 2010

One of the world's leading experts in virus evolution, Professor Eddie Holmes, will address the issue of global epidemics when he speaks as part of the Sydney Science Forum on Thursday 18 March 2010.

In his only Sydney public lecture, Professor Holmes will address the fundamental questions of how epidemics start and spread, and whether we can predict when they will occur. This is the first Sydney Science Forum lecture for 2010 and will be held at 5:45 pm in Eastern Ave Auditorium, at the University of Sydney.

Professor Holmes, an evolutionary biologist from Pennsylvania State University, specialises in the evolution of diseases caused by RNA viruses - such as yellow fever and dengue - and has recently published a book on the topic titled, The Evolution and Emergence of RNA Viruses (Oxford Series in Ecology and Evolution).

In his Sydney Science Forum talk, 'On the origin of epidemics', Professor Holmes will discuss how evolving RNA viruses are able to jump species boundaries and emerge in humans, sometimes with devastating effects. As case studies, he will examine in detail the origin and spread of influenza and dengue - two viruses that pose great public health concerns to Australia.

Professor Holmes currently holds the title of Eberly College of Science Distinguished Senior Scholar in the Centre for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Pennsylvania State University. He is also an affiliate member of the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health, USA.

Originally trained as an anthropologist - his doctorate research focused on the evolutionary history of human populations - Professor Holmes became interested in viruses after taking up a postdoctoral research position at the University of California in the town of Davis. During his time at Davis, the nearby city of San Francisco was suffering very badly from the AIDS epidemic caused by the human immunodeficiency virus - HIV. Professor Holmes became fascinated by the origins of the HIV epidemic and the potential of applying his knowledge of evolution to the study of viruses such as HIV.

From his early postdoctoral research in HIV, Professor Holmes has continued to publish prolifically on the topic, including four publications in the journal Nature. He has also expanded his research to include a number of different viruses, including Hepatitis B and C, yellow fever, dengue, rabies, bat lyssaviruses and influenza.

As an expert in virus evolution, Professor Holmes has been involved in a number of scientific panels that have discussed the threat posed by both avian and swine influenza. In 2001, he was a member of the UK Royal Society working group advising the UK government on the safety of genetically modified plants for food. To date, Professor Holmes has published almost 250 articles and his collected works have been cited over 10 500 times.

Register to attend this free public talk - Sydney Science Forum: 'On the Origin of Epidemics' at: or email:

Contact: Katynna Gill

Phone: 02 9351 6997

Email: 1f0a273d0c5f1b5a50251d07191a331d18375264572b021b162c