Christopher James Owen

Christopher James Owen

Profile Display Name:

Chris Owen

E-mail Address:

Start Year

2017 (Cohort 4)

Research interests:
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PhD Project
PhD Title

Investigating the mechanisms of viral evolution in a lethal wildlife pathogen

Research Theme

Natural and Biological Hazards

Primary Supervisor
Primary Institution


Secondary Supervisor
Secondary Institution


CASE Partner

Zoological Society of London (ZSL)

CASE Supervisor


Pathogens are rarely associated with just one species; through time, the majority of pathogens jump into and infect species that are not their native host. Factors at the molecular level ultimately determine the range of host species a pathogen can infect, and changes in these molecular factors may be necessary for novel-host tropism. However, beyond predictions provided by theoretical models, the exact nature of the molecular changes associated with the adaptive evolution of pathogens to novel host species is not well understood. Nucleocytoplasmic Large DNA Viruses (NCLDVs) comprise a large group of important pathogens, including Ranavirus – a viral genus with an exceptionally broad host-range spanning fish, amphibians and reptiles. Due to their ability to frequently switch host species, ranaviruses provide an excellent model system to investigate the molecular dynamics underpinning pathogen tropism in novel hosts. The doctoral research proposed here will centre on the experimental evolution of ranaviruses in cell cultures of multiple host species. The nature of the resulting adaptive molecular changes will be characterised in vivo, and used to explore host tropism-associated factors of other NCLDV pathogens, such as Poxviruses. Ultimately, the system will provide novel tests to critical assumptions from theoretical models of adaptive evolution.

Policy Impact
Background Reading



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