Rachel Fearns, PhD

Chair and Ernest Barsamian, MD Professor, Virology, Immunology & Microbiology

Rachel Fearns
72 E. Concord St Housman (R)


My group’s research focuses on the transcription-replication machinery of non-segmented negative strand RNA viruses. My work spans several viruses in different viral families, including Marburg virus, Nipah virus, respiratory syncytial virus, and parainfluenza virus. Although these viruses cause very different diseases, they all share common mechanisms to transcribe and replicate their RNA genomes. My group specializes in using biochemical and molecular biology approaches to probe functional properties of the transcription-replication machinery. We collaborate with structural biologists to understand how the structure of viral polymerases relates to their multi-functional properties, with industry partners to determine the mechanism of action of small molecule polymerase inhibitors with therapeutic potential, and with experts in microscopy to study how the transcription-replication machinery is organized and regulated in infected cells.

Other Positions

  • Faculty, National Emerging Infectious Disease Lab, Boston University
  • Member, Pulmonary Center, Boston University
  • Member, Evans Center for Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research, Boston University
  • Member, Genome Science Institute, Boston University
  • Graduate Faculty (Primary Mentor of Grad Students), Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine, Graduate Medical Sciences


  • University of St Andrews, PhD
  • University of Leeds, BS

Classes Taught

  • GMSMI701
  • GMSMI911
  • GMSMI912


  • Published on 5/19/2024

    Bonneux B, Shareef A, Tcherniuk S, Anson B, de Bruyn S, Verheyen N, Thys K, Conceição-Neto N, Van Ginderen M, Kwanten L, Ysebaert N, Vranckx L, Peeters E, Lanckacker E, Gallup JM, Sitthicharoenchai P, Alnajjar S, Ackermann MR, Adhikary S, Bhaumik A, Patrick A, Fung A, Sutto-Ortiz P, Decroly E, Mason SW, Lançois D, Deval J, Jin Z, Eléouët JF, Fearns R, Koul A, Roymans D, Rigaux P, Herschke F. JNJ-7184, a respiratory syncytial virus inhibitor targeting the connector domain of the viral polymerase. Antiviral Res. 2024 Jul; 227:105907. PMID: 38772503.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 4/11/2024

    Xie J, Ouizougun-Oubari M, Wang L, Zhai G, Wu D, Lin Z, Wang M, Ludeke B, Yan X, Nilsson T, Gao L, Huang X, Fearns R, Chen S. Structural basis for dimerization of a paramyxovirus polymerase complex. Nat Commun. 2024 Apr 11; 15(1):3163. PMID: 38605025.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 10/21/2023

    Yu X, Abeywickrema P, Bonneux B, Behera I, Anson B, Jacoby E, Fung A, Adhikary S, Bhaumik A, Carbajo RJ, De Bruyn S, Miller R, Patrick A, Pham Q, Piassek M, Verheyen N, Shareef A, Sutto-Ortiz P, Ysebaert N, Van Vlijmen H, Jonckers THM, Herschke F, McLellan JS, Decroly E, Fearns R, Grosse S, Roymans D, Sharma S, Rigaux P, Jin Z. Structural and mechanistic insights into the inhibition of respiratory syncytial virus polymerase by a non-nucleoside inhibitor. Commun Biol. 2023 Oct 21; 6(1):1074. PMID: 37865687.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 9/21/2023

    Zhao C, Wang W, Bai Y, Amonkar G, Mou H, Olejnik J, Hume AJ, Mühlberger E, Fang Y, Que J, Fearns R, Ai X, Lerou PH. Age-related STAT3 signaling regulates severity of respiratory syncytial viral infection in human bronchial epithelial cells. bioRxiv. 2023 Sep 21. PMID: 37781574.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 8/1/2023

    Aihara F, Wang Y, Belkina AC, Fearns R, Mizgerd JP, Feng F, Kepler TB. Diversity of B Cell Populations and Ig Repertoire in Human Lungs. J Immunol. 2023 Aug 01; 211(3):486-496. PMID: 37314411.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 6/19/2023

    Kleiner VA, O Fischmann T, Howe JA, Beshore DC, Eddins MJ, Hou Y, Mayhood T, Klein D, Nahas DD, Lucas BJ, Xi H, Murray E, Ma DY, Getty K, Fearns R. Conserved allosteric inhibitory site on the respiratory syncytial virus and human metapneumovirus RNA-dependent RNA polymerases. Commun Biol. 2023 Jun 19; 6(1):649. PMID: 37337079.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 5/3/2023

    Ouizougun-Oubari M, Fearns R. Structures and Mechanisms of Nonsegmented, Negative-Strand RNA Virus Polymerases. Annu Rev Virol. 2023 Sep 29; 10(1):199-215. PMID: 37137281.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 11/10/2022

    Donovan-Banfield I, Milligan R, Hall S, Gao T, Murphy E, Li J, Shawli GT, Hiscox J, Zhuang X, McKeating JA, Fearns R, Matthews DA. Direct RNA sequencing of respiratory syncytial virus infected human cells generates a detailed overview of RSV polycistronic mRNA and transcript abundance. PLoS One. 2022; 17(11):e0276697. PMID: 36355791.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 6/22/2022

    Cressey TN, Shareef AM, Kleiner VA, Noton SL, Byrne PO, McLellan JS, Mühlberger E, Fearns R. Distinctive features of the respiratory syncytial virus priming loop compared to other non-segmented negative strand RNA viruses. PLoS Pathog. 2022 06; 18(6):e1010451. PMID: 35731802.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 12/22/2021

    Conley MJ, Short JM, Burns AM, Streetley J, Hutchings J, Bakker SE, Power BJ, Jaffery H, Haney J, Zanetti G, Murcia PR, Stewart M, Fearns R, Vijayakrishnan S, Bhella D. Helical ordering of envelope-associated proteins and glycoproteins in respiratory syncytial virus. EMBO J. 2022 02 01; 41(3):e109728. PMID: 34935163.

    Read at: PubMed

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