SysGen Seminar – Jemma Geoghegan – 1st September, 2017

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Andrew Siebel

T: +61 3 8344 0707

Jemma Geoghegan

Macquarie University

Friday 1st September
FW Jones Theatre, Level 3 Medical Building, The University of Melbourne

Predicting pandemics amidst evolutionary noise: the evolution and emergence of infectious disease

Emerging infectious diseases are often characterised by host-switching events in which a pathogen jumps from its original host to infect a novel species. With changes in land use and increasing urbanisation, the frequency with which pathogens jump species barriers to emerge in new hosts is expected to rise. Nevertheless, most emerging infections in humans result in dead-end ‘spillover’ events in which a pathogen is transmitted from an animal reservoir to a human but is unable to achieve the sustained human-to-human transmission necessary for a full-blown epidemic. This talk will focus on my research into the evolutionary processes that might allow novel pathogens to adapt to new hosts; and the potential barriers to host adaptation. To better understand the determinants of host adaptation and emergence, I will present a model of key aspects of pathogen evolutionary dynamics at both intra- and inter-host scales. Then, using multivariate modelling and multimodel inference, I will identify those biological features of viruses that best determine inter-human transmissibility. Finally, I will present a comparative co-phylogenetic analysis, which aims to understand how viruses and their hosts co-evolve and reveal the nature of virus macroevolution.

Jemma obtained her PhD from the University of Otago in New Zealand (awarded 2013) before undertaking two postdoctoral fellowships: first at NYU Medical School and later at the University of Sydney with Professor Eddie Holmes. Earlier this year, Jemma was appointed lecturer in genetics at Macquarie University, Sydney, where she is furthering her research interests in evolutionary dynamics and genetics of key viral infections affecting both human and animal health.

Enquiries: Andrew Siebel (