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Exploring what makes viruses tick

MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research

Meet the team

Meet the team

Benjamin Brennan, PhD
Principal Investigator
United Kingdom
PublicationsEmail | Twitter

A Wellcome Trust/Royal Society Sir Henry Dale Fellow. Loves all things virology. Fascinated how arboviruses adapt to the different environmental challenges of replicating in a mammal or arthropod system and how they get between the two. Outside the lab, I love cook and walk the dog in the beautiful Scottish countryside.

20 - 042 CVR Mazigh Fares 02.JPG

Mazigh Fares, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Algeria, France

PublicationsEmail | Twitter

Born, raised, and graduated on Berber land, I continued my education with a PhD in France. I joined the Brennan lab to work on tick-borne viruses and how/why they interact with, well, ticks. I am very enthusiastic about arboviruses, full Scottish breakfasts, and scuba diving.

20 - 042 CVR Alexandra Wilson 01[1722].J

Alexandra Wilson

PhD Student

United Kingdom

Email | Twitter

Graduated with an MBiochem from Oxford University in 2019 before moving to Scotland to carry out my PhD (despite never even visiting Scotland before that). I’m excited to start my journey as a virologist and to study viruses (novel and known) capable of greatly impacting the world around us, particularly those capable of jumping between species. When I’m not working, I enjoy hiking, cross-stitching or attempting to learn to salsa. 


Andrew Clarke

PhD Student

United Kingdom

Email | Twitter

After graduating from my home university (Queen’s University Belfast), I moved to Glasgow in 2018 to pursue my love of virology with an MSc in Infection Biology. Following my enthusiasm for arboviruses, I joined The Pirbright Institute to work on the control of mosquito vectors of arboviruses via genetic modification. I’m delighted to join the Brennan Lab for my first PhD rotation project to study tick-borne viruses. I love a good Guinness, coffee and photography.


Marine Petit, PhD

Marie Curie Fellow, partnered with Kohl Lab


Email | Twitter

Intrigued by how viruses impact their host, I have focussed my career on understanding interactions between viruses and their hosts/vectors.

Arboviruses have been my best companion through my journey from Institut Pasteur, Paris (Drosophila melanogaster piRNAs are not antiviral) to the University of California, Davis (Interaction between human transcription machinery and Dengue 2 virus NS5 protein). My Marie-Curie fellowship is the chance to continue exploring arboviruses biology focusing on tick-bunyavirus interactions.

Outside of the lab I play cello, love to sew and cook good meal for my friends.


Visiting Researchers

Frederic Gusmag

Yuji Wada

Mareike Kubinski

PhD Students

Veronica Rezelj (former Elliott Lab student)

Stephanie Cumberworth (second supervisor)

Lab life

Documenting the lab's adventures...

Lab life

Our Research


Based at the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research


The Brennan Lab uses virological methods such as reverse genetics technologies and acarology to probe how clinically relevant pathogens are transmitted by ticks. We seek to understand how these viruses manipulate the different cellular environments in a tick or a mammal to sustain virus replication and cause disease. 

Our research‌ focuses on a specific group of emerging viruses found within the genus Phenuiviridae of the Bunyavirales order.


Ongoing Projects

Examining the interaction of tick-transmitted viruses with their arthropod vector
  • Studying the molecular biology of tick-borne viruses in different systems

  • Analysing the innate immune factors of the tick that control virus replication

Developing tools and techniques to study the replication of tick-borne viruses in vivo
  • Establishing infection models and studies in live ticks at containment level 2 (CL2) and containment level 3 (CL3)

Investigating the roles of the viral proteins during infection of both mammalian and arthropod cells
  • Answering how/why viruses can infect ticks without causing disease

Developing attenuated viruses for use as potential live-attenuated vaccines or vector control agents
  • In collaboration with other CVR members we seek to generate new live-attenuated vaccine candidates for these emerging viruses

Exploring the molecular determinants of virus tropism
  • Finding out why these viruses are transmitted by ticks rather than other arthropods such as mosquitoes

We are also involved in various public engagement and out reach projects
involved in promoting tick-borne virus awareness in Scotland.

Our Collaborators

We collaborate with multiple laboratories across the globe to produce world class science


Grants & Awards

Grants and Awards listed are those received whilst working with the University of Glasgow.

  • MRC Public Engagement Seed Fund

       What makes viruses tick?

       Medical Research Council


  • Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Research Fellowships: Leadership Fellow Funding

       University of Glasgow


  • What makes phleboviruses tick? Examining the molecular interactions of tick-borne phleboviruses with their arthropod vector
    Wellcome Trust
    2018 - 2024


In the media

CVR arbovirus programme featured on BBC Scotland

© BBC Scotland

First broadcast 31/10/2018

Read the full article

ITV News report on how the CVR is tackling the coronavirus

© ITV News

First broadcast 23/03/2020

Read the full article

Brennan Lab on STV promoting our public engagement project to Scottish audiences

© STV News

First broadcast 04/08/2021

Read the full article


Highlighted publications

Cross-genotype protection of live-attenuated vaccine candidate for severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome virus in a ferret model

PNAS 2020

This collaborative effort between the Brennan, Choi and Jung labs is the first description of the use of rationally attenuated live-attenuated SFTSV vaccines. We demonstrate that a single pre-immunisation with an attenuated virus conferred complete sterilising immunity to lethal challenge. The vaccine candidates were well tolerated and showed no disease in the ferret model.

Severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome phlebovirus non-structural protein activates TPL2 signalling pathway for viral immunopathogenesis

Nat. Microbiol. 2019

In collaboration with the Jung Lab at University of Southern California, we explored how SFTSV caused severe disease. We found that the protein interacts with the TPL2 signalling pathway to induce immune-suppressive IL-10 cytokine production as a means to dampen the host defence and promote viral pathogenesis.

Differential antagonism of human innate immune responses by tick-Borne Phlebovirus nonstructural proteins

mSphere 2017

Despite being closely related, phleboviruses can cause a wide spectrum of illness in mammals. Here we demonstrated there was a correlation between how efficiently the nonstructural protein (NSs) antagonised the interferon response and severity of disease observed.

Mapping of transcription termination within the S segment of SFTS Phlebovirus facilitated generation of NSs deletant viruses

J. Virol 2017

This publication describes the development of reporter viruses expressing fluorescent proteins in the place of the NSs open reading frame (ORF). The creation of these viruses was possible after mapping the transcription termination signals of the two subgenomic mRNAs produced from the S segment.

Reverse genetics system for severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome virus

J. Virol 2015

In this paper we describe the development of a reverse genetics system for severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome virus an emerging Banyangvirus. The paper describes minigenome systems and how mistakes in the published sequences hampered initial development of the system.

Who funds us

Who funds us

We would like to thank the following funding agencies for funding our work directly or in collaboration with other laboratories. Funders past and present are listed below:

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