Imperial College London


Faculty of MedicineDepartment of Infectious Disease

Visiting Professor



+44 (0)1483 231 415v.nair Website




Wright Fleming WingSt Mary's Campus





Principal areas of research
Virus-induced cancers, molecular mechanisms of oncogenesis, role of virus- and host-encoded microRNAs in oncogenesis, novel antiviral vaccines.

Prof. Venugopal Nair obtained the Bachelors Degree in Veterinary & Animal Sciences from the Kerala Agricultural University, Trichur, India in 1976. After obtaining a PhD in Veterinary Medicine from the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Chennai, India in 1987, he started his research career as a post-doctoral scientist at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Dr. Nair joined Dr. Ernie Gould’s group at the Institute of Virology & Environmental Microbiology, Oxford as postdoctoral research fellow in 1989, where he carried out extensive research until 1994 on the molecular biology of arthropod-borne flaviviruses.

Dr. Nair moved to the Institute for Animal Health in 1994 to join Dr. Jim Payne’s group to work on avian oncogenic viruses. He became the Head of the Viral Oncogenesis group following Dr. Payne’s retirement, and since been leading the research on the pathogenesis of avian oncogenic viruses such as Marek’s disease. Dr. Nair is the designated expert of the OIE (Office International des Epizooties) Reference Centre on Marek’s disease and was the Chairman of the organizing committee of the 7th International Marek’s Disease Symposium in Oxford in 2004. He is also a Visiting Professor at Imperial College London since 2005, and is a member of the Board of Editors of Avian Pathology. Prof. Nair became a Jenner Investigator in January 2007.

Despite the enormous success of the intensive livestock and poultry farming in increasing the production of cheap animal proteins, threats from several infectious diseases continue to challenge in the sustainability of animal production. Poultry industry is heavily dependent on the widespread use of vaccines against multitude of viral diseases that challenges poultry health and welfare. Continuous race between the pathogens and the host immune responses often necessitates the application of newer generations of more effective vaccines for successful control of many avian diseases.

Marek’s disease (MD) is one of the highly contagious and economically important neoplastic diseases of poultry which is estimated to cause economic losses up to £ 1billion worldwide. Despite the widespread and successful use of vaccines for the last 40 years, MD virus shows a continuous evolution of virulence. One of the aims of Dr. Nair’s research is to investigate the molecular mechanisms of for the continued increase in virulence. In collaboration, with Prof. Andrew Read, University of Edinburgh, Dr. Nair is examining the role of vaccines in driving MDV virulence.

As an excellent model for rapid-onset lymphomas, MD also offers the prospect of examining the molecular events and mechanisms of virus-induced oncogenesis in a natural disease model. With an aim to unravel the molecular mechanisms of MDV-induced neoplastic transformation, Dr. Nair group carries out in-depth analysis of the transcriptome, proteome and the interactome of MDV-transformed cells to understand the molecular pathways of oncogenesis. Dr. Nair’s group has established infectious bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) clones of different MDV strains, which allow random or targeted mutagenesis to identify genes associated with pathogenicity. More recently, Dr. Nair’s group has identified several herpesvirus-encoded microRNAs that have profound influence of the biology of these viruses.

Key Publications
Yao, Y., Zhao, Y., Xu, H., Smith, L. P., Lawrie, C. H., Sewer, A., Zavolan, M. & Nair, V. (2007) Marek’s disease virus type 2 (MDV-2)-encoded microRNAs show no sequence conservation to those encoded by MDV-1. Journal of Virology 8:7164-70

Stephen J. Spatz, Lawrence Petherbridge, Yuguang Zhao and Venugopal Nair (2007) Comparative full-length sequence analysis of oncogenic and vaccine (Rispens) strains of Marek’s disease virus Journal of General Virology 88, 1080–1096.

Andrew C. Brown, Susan J. Baigent, Lorraine P. Smith, Jason P. Chattoo, Lawrence J. Petherbridge, Pippa Hawes, Martin J. Allday & Venugopal Nair (2006). Interaction of MEQ and CtBP is critical for induction of lymphomas by Marek’s disease virus. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103, 1687-92.

Venugopal Nair & Mihaela Zavolan (2006). Virus-encoded microRNAs: Novel regulators of gene expression. Trends in Microbiology 14, 169-175.

Baigent, S. J., Petherbridge, L. J., Smith, L. P., Chesters, P. M. and Nair, V. (2006). Herpesvirus of Turkey HVT reconstituted from bacterial artificial chromosome BAC clones induces protection against Marek’s disease. Journal of General Virology 87, 769-776.

Davison, T. F. & Venugopal Nair (2005). Marek’s disease vaccines: Could they be driving the virulence? Expert Reviews of Vaccines 4, 77-88.



Brown AC, Smith LP, Kgosana L, et al., 2009, Homodimerization of the Meq Viral Oncoprotein Is Necessary for Induction of T-Cell Lymphoma by Marek's Disease Virus, Journal of Virology, Vol:83, ISSN:0022-538X, Pages:11142-11151

Brown AC, Baigent SJ, Smith LP, et al., 2006, Interaction of MEQ protein and C-terminal-binding protein is critical for induction of lymphomas by Marek's disease virus, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol:103, ISSN:0027-8424, Pages:1687-1692

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