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Stochasticity Open Seminar June 27, 2017, 14:00

Open Seminars of the Research Group on


Stochasticity and Control in the Dynamics and Diversity of Immune Repertories: an Example of Multi-Cellular Co-Operation


Tuesday, June 27, 2017, 14:00

at the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies, Room 128



Can we predict the evolution of viruses?


Adi Stern (TAU)


Predicting the course of evolution is one of the most challenging and potentially important areas in biology. The process of evolution can be decomposed into two components: the deterministic action of selection, and stochastic effects manifested as genetic drift. In my talk I will discuss how we tease apart the effects of selection from genetic drift, and I will present evidence of extensive parallel substitution and recombination events occurring in repeated epidemics of vaccine-derived polioviruses. The mutations and the evolutionary trajectories driving these epidemics were replicated using a simple cell-based experimental setup where the rate of evolution was intentionally accelerated. Furthermore, mutations accumulating during epidemics increased the replication fitness of the virus in cell culture and increased virulence in an animal model. This study provides a powerful framework for rational design of safer vaccine strains and for forecasting virulence of viruses.


Related Research Questions


  1. Is it possible to forecast the next virus epidemic?
  2. What is the role of chance versus causality in viruses?
  3. How many viable evolutionary trajectories can viruses explore?


Suggested Reading


The Evolutionary Pathway to Virulence of an RNA Virus. 

Stern, A., Yeh, M.T., Zinger, T., Smith, M., Ling, G., Nielsen, R., Macadam, A., Andino, R. 

Cell, Volume 169, Issue 1, 23 March 2017, Pages 35–46.e19


What can we predict about viral evolution and emergence? 

Holmes, E.

Curr Opin Virol. 2013 Apr; 3(2): 180–184.



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