Biomedical Sciences & Pathobiology Faculty

Roger J. Avery, PhD

Roger J. Avery
Professor Emeritus
Department of Biomedical Sciences & Pathobiology


  • 1969
    University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK
  • 1966
    First Class Honors Degree in Biochemistry
    University of Leeds, UK

Research Interests & Experience

  • During my undergraduate training in biochemistry, I developed an interest in both nucleic acids and viruses with the result that molecular virology became the central theme of my subsequent research work.
  • Initially, I investigated bacterial ribosomal ribonucleic acids with particular reference to the genes for their synthesis.
  • Subsequently, I studied the DNAs of the T-even bacteriophages while a fellow at the Carnegie Institution. During my fellowship I gained experience in the technique of molecular hybridization, an extremely powerful tool for the investigation of nucleic acids.
  • My early work in the Virus Research Group at Warwick was on the replication and transcription of the RNA genome of influenza virus. For this purpose, I developed an assay for RNA:RNA hybridization. During the course of my work at Warwick, I also studied phages, amphibian viruses, insect viruses, fowl pest virus, infectious bronchitis virus and interferon.
  • In 1976, I began working on the Kirsten sarcoma/leukemia virus complex (KiMSV/KiMLV). My aim was to analyze the mechanism by which these viruses transform cells, and so provide a completely understood model system of virus induced neoplasia. My groupĂ­s approach was at the molecular level. However, initially we isolated a series of clonally related cells that differ only in their response to infection by virus. All these cells contain integrated DNA copies of the virus genome. We analyzed the position of integration of these copies at the nucleotide sequence level. In addition, we examined the virus specified proteins and RNAs in the infected cells. A comparison between several revertant clones and their transformed progenitors has been of particular interest.  We also identified a putative retrovirus in Drosphila Melanogaster cells. This was the first observation of this type of virus in invertebrate cells and has implications for the use of insect virus preparations as biological insecticides. It also raised questions concerning the relationship between retroviruses and other movable genetic elements.  In addition, we used recombinant DNA techniques to clone DNA copies of the KiMSV and KiMLV genomes, and Kras oncogene. This allowed us to use DNA sequencing to investigate the detailed organization of these virus genomes. In particular, we studied the sequences involved in the recombinational event between KiMLV and rat cell DNA, which produced KiMSV. The cloned DNAs are also useful as clean probes for further hybridization studies.  In a related study, we used a novel approach to clone, and subsequently analyze, the transcriptionally active members of a family of retrovirus like elements (VL30s) present in the mouse genome.
  • My work at Montana State University involved the use of recombinant DNA techniques to investigate a number of viruses which infect livestock.
  • At the Institute for Animal Health, I initiated projects designed to provide diagnostic reagents for infectious laryngotracheitis virus and (ultimately) novel vaccines against infectious bursal disease and newcastle disease viruses.
  • My laboratory at Cornell concentrated on investigating retroviruses, especially the lentiviruses feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and ovine progressive pheumonia virus (OPPV). Besides causing diseases of veterinary importance in the cat and sheep respectively, these viruses also represent potential models for human immunodeficiency virus, the causative agent of AIDS. We investigated the interaction of these viruses with cells and the molecular basis of the consequent pathogenesis. 

Patent Awarded

Novel Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) Nucleotide Sequence (6,284,253) 

Professional Experience

  • 2005-2016
    Senior Associate Dean
    Research and Graduate Studies
    Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine
    Virginia Tech
    Blacksburg, VA
  • 2005-present
    Professor, Virology
    Department of Biomedical Sciences & Pathobiology
    Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine
    Virginia Tech
    Blacksburg, VA
  • 2002
    Interim Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Dean
    Graduate School, Virginia Tech
    Blacksburg, VA
  • 1999-2005
    Senior Associate Dean
    Graduate School, Virginia Tech
    Blacksburg, VA
  • 1986-1999
    Chairman and Professor of Virology
    Department of Microbiology and Immunology
    College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University
    Ithaca, New York
  • 1984-1986
    Head of Department of Microbiology
    Institute for Animal Health, Houghton Laboratory
    Houghton, Cambridgeshire, UK
  • 1983-1984
    Professor of Virology & Director of Virology Section
    Department of Veterinary Molecular Biology
    Adjunct Professor of Microbiology
    Department of Microbiology
    Montana State University
    Bozeman, Montana
  • 1980-1982
    Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Biological Sciences
    University of Warwick
    Coventry, UK
  • 1978
    Visiting Fellow
    Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Foundation Inc.
    Torrey Pines Research Center
    San Diego, California, USA
  • 1975
    Visiting Medical Research Council Fellow in Cancer Studies
    University of California Medical Center
    San Francisco, California, USA
  • 1971-1980
    Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Biological Sciences
    University of Warwick
    Coventry, UK
  • 1969-1971
    Postdoctoral Research Fellow of the Carnegie Institution
    Washington, D.C., USA

Professional Memberships

  • Society for General Microbiology
  • Biochemical Society
  • European Tumor Virus Group
  • Veterinary Research Club
  • Conference of Research Workers in Animal Disease
  • American Society for Virology
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Gamma Sigma Delta (Honor Society of Agriculture)
  • Phi Zeta (Veterinary Honor Society)

Selected Publications

  1. T. Paul, J. Casey, R.J.Avery, and C. Sutton. Expression of feline immunodeficiency virus Vif is associated with reduced viral mutation rates without restoration of Replication of Vif mutant viruses. Virology. 361, 112 (2007)
  2. J. Casey, C. Sutton, P. Gordinier, R. J. Avery. Comparative Replication Kinetics of Two Cytopathic Feline Lentiviruses ex vivo. Virology. 332, 519 (2005)
  3. L. Zou, M.C. Barr, W.A. Hoose and R.J. Avery. Characterization of the Transcription Map and Rev Activity of a Highly Cytopathic Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. Virology. 236, 266 (1997)
  4. M.C. Barr, L. Zou, F. Long, W.A. Hoose and R.J. Avery. Proviral organization and sequence analysis of feline immunodeficiency virus isolated from a PallasĂ­ Cat. Virology. 228, 84 (1997).
  5. B.J. Campbell and R.J. Avery. Sequence Analysis and Transcriptional Activity of the Long Terminal Repeat of OLV-CU1, a North American Ovine Lentivirus. J. Gen. Virol. 77, 2999 (1996).
  6. B.J. Cooper, N.J. Winand, H. Stedman, B.A. Valentine, E.P. Hoffman, L.M. Kunkel, M.O. Scott, K.H. Fischbeck, J.N. Kornegay, R.J. Avery, J.R. Williams, R.D. Schmickel and J.E. Sylvester. The Homologue of the Duchenne Locus is Defective in X-linked Muscular Dystrophy of Dogs. Nature. 334, 154 (1988).
  7. R.J. Avery, J.D. Norton, J.S. Jones, D.C. Burke and A.G. Morris. Interferon Inhibits Transformation by Murine Sarcoma Viruses Before Integration of Provirus. Nature. 288, 93 (1980).