Rachel Fearns, PhD

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 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
  • Published on 12/16/2021

    Shareef AM, Ludeke B, Jordan P, Deval J, Fearns R. Comparison of RNA synthesis initiation properties of non-segmented negative strand RNA virus polymerases. PLoS Pathog. 2021 12; 17(12):e1010151. PMID: 34914795.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 5/18/2021

    Braun MR, Noton SL, Blanchard EL, Shareef A, Santangelo PJ, Johnson WE, Fearns R. Respiratory syncytial virus M2-1 protein associates non-specifically with viral messenger RNA and with specific cellular messenger RNA transcripts. PLoS Pathog. 2021 05; 17(5):e1009589. PMID: 34003848.

    Read at: PubMed
  • Published on 3/15/2021

    Rhodin MHJ, McAllister NV, Castillo J, Noton SL, Fearns R, Kim IJ, Yu J, Blaisdell TP, Panarese J, Shook BC, Or YS, Goodwin B, Lin K. EDP-938, a novel nucleoprotein inhibitor of respiratory syncytial virus, demonstrates potent antiviral activities in vitro and in a non-human primate model. PLoS Pathog. 2021 03; 17(3):e1009428. PMID: 33720995.

    Read at: PubMed

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