Rachel Fearns, Ph.D.

Ernest Barsamian, MD Professor
Chair of Virology, Immunology & MicrobiologyFearns
650 Albany Street, X248C
Office: 617-358-9287
Lab: 617-358-9195

B.S.    University of Leeds
Ph.D.   University of St. Andrews

See BU Profile for more information and publications.

My group’s research focuses on the transcriptional and genome replication mechanisms of non-segmented negative strand RNA viruses. This group of viruses includes a number of significant human pathogens, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), human metapneumovirus (HMPV), measles, mumps and parainfluenza viruses, and emerging highly pathogenic viruses, such as Nipah, Marburg and Ebola viruses. Our overarching goal is to understand the processes of transcription and genome replication, both at a molecular level and within the context of the cellular environment. We are accomplishing this by applying biochemistry and molecular biology approaches and by collaborating with researchers with expertise in structural biology and cutting edge cell imaging techniques. By studying representative viruses from three different non-segmented negative strand RNA virus families, we are characterizing the similarities and differences between these viruses. This could help identify suitable targets for development of broad spectrum antivirals and helps us to appreciate the rich diversity of the non-segmented negative strand RNA viruses and the mechanisms that they have evolved to express and replicate their genomes.

Research in the lab can be divided into the following areas:

  • Determining the mechanisms by which viral transcription and replication occur and are regulated over the course of infection.
  • Deciphering structure-function relationships of the viral polymerase and associated proteins.
  • Determining the mechanism of action of small molecule inhibitors of the viral polymerase.