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Dr Elisabetta Groppelli

Lecturer in Global Health (non clinical)
Virologist investigating enteric viruses and developing novel and affordable vaccines

I am a virologist and Lecturer in Global Health at St George’s University of London, where I also hold a Medical Research Foundation Fellowship. I have extensive experience with viruses of great importance for human health, including HIV-1, Ebolavirus and Poliovirus. In the academic context, I combine molecular and cellular biology approaches to elucidate fundamental steps of the virus life cycle and its interaction with the host. During the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, I gained invaluable experience first as team leader of a molecular diagnostics laboratory in rural Sierra Leone (2015), and then as Public Health England (PHE) in-country lead (2015-2016).

During the lockdown in early 2020, I led the establishment of SARS-CoV-2 research at the Institute for Infection and Immunity, St George’s University of London, where we have a dedicated containment laboratory (CL3) for both fundamental and translational virology. I make the most of the great collaborative environment at St George's and work closely with both academic and clinical academic colleagues.

I am honoured to hold a personal fellowship from he Medical Research Foundation to support my research on a major contributor to the global burden of food/water-borne diseases: hepatitis A virus (HAV). The public health burden of HAV is heaviest in low middle-income countries (LMIC) with intermediate seroprevalence: improvements in economic and sanitary conditions reduce childhood infections, but also result in accumulation of naïve adults when levels of circulating virus remain high. Paradoxically, adult-acquired infections present more severe pathology and carry a higher risk of fatal outcomes than in children. 

Although WHO encourages all its member states to vaccinate against HAV, low availability and high costs of the current vaccine (inactivated virus) have proven insurmountable challenges. Therefore, my research focuses on generating a novel HAV vaccine, made by expressing the viral structural proteins in mammalian and plant systems, as valid and cheaper new standard.

HAV is not just a threat in LMIC: outbreaks linked to sexual intercourse, food suppliers and school canteens are becoming increasingly larger and more frequent in high-income countries, including the UK.

I am passionate about making virology and science accessible to the public and, in pandemic times, I feel strongly about helping the public make sense of it. 

Follow me on Twitter @ViralRNA


Professional History

  • June 2018 – January 2020: Principal Investigator, Medical Research Foundation Fellow, University of Leeds.
    • Understanding the interplay between the capsid and the genome of Hepatitis A Virus and generate novel and affordable vaccine (2018-2021, funding: Medical Research Foundation)
    • Towards a novel genome-free Enterovirus A71 vaccine. PhD student, 50% with Prof N. Stonehouse (2017-2021, funding: Saudi Arabia Cultural Bureau)
    • Elucidating Norovirus entry and uncoating in cells to prevent initiation of infection. PDRA (2018-2020, funding: University of Leeds) 
  • August 2016 – May 2018: Research Fellow, Prof Lisa Roberts, University of Leeds. Caliciviruses-host interaction
  • May 2016 – August 2016: Research Visitor, Prof David Rowlands, University of Leeds. Picornavirus uncoating and mechanism of RNA release and membrane penetration.
  • July 2015 – February 2016: Public Health England (PHE) In-Country Lead in Sierra Leone. Roles: manage and lead PHE projects (Ebola diagnostics; research); coordinate PHE efforts with international partners and Sierra Leone government (outbreak response; health care system strengthening). Funding provided by Public Health England to Dr Elisabetta Groppelli as PI at the University College London.
  • February 2015 – March 2015: Team Leader at Public Health England Ebola diagnostic Laboratory in Port Loko, Sierra Leone.
  • July 2010 – July 2015: Postdoctoral Research Associate, Dr Clare Jolly, Division of Infection and Immunity, University College London, UK. HIV-1 cell-to-cell spread at the Virological Synapse.
  • June 2007 – July 2010: Postdoctoral Research Associate, Prof David Rowlands, Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Leeds, UK. Picornavirus entry and uncoating.


Professional Recognition

  • July 2020: invited speaker, FASEB Virus Structure and Assembly, Colorado, USA
  • June 2020: member of the scientific advisory board for Europic2020, Finland
  • December 2018: speaker at Trafficking meeting, UK
  • July 2018: invited speaker at SinoPic, China
  • May 2018: chair of the session on Virus Structure and Entry at Europic2018, The Netherlands
  • February 2017: invited speaker, Glasgow Virology Workshop, UK


  • Regular reviewer of articles for the Journal of Virology, Retrovirology, Scientific Reports, Antiviral Research, Viruses, Virology Journal, PNAS.


  • Invited author for the 10-year anniversary special issue of Viruses, Editor Eric Freed. Due June 2020.  


Personal major honours and academic distinctions

  • March 2016: Advancing Healthcare awards: Special Recognition for work on the Ebola Crisis in Sierra Leone.
  • June 2015: Ebola Medal for Service in West Africa, awarded by Her Majesty’s Government.
  • September 2002 – April 2003: Erasmus exchange program (9-month scholarship) at the University of Surrey, UK.

Medical Research Foundation Fellowship, 2018-2022

Prof Julian Ma, SGUL, UK: vaccine development in plants

Prof Dave Rowlands, University of Leeds, UK: hepatitis A virus and picornaviruses; virus-like particles vaccines

Prof Stan Lemon, University of North Carolina, USA: hepatitis A virus 

Dr Mike Strauss, McGill University, Canada: structural virology

Prof Dave Stuart, University of Oxford, UK: structural virology

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