Association of Applied Biologists
AAB - President

The main aim of this group is to promote plant virology as a subject in the UK as well as overseas through innovative outreaching activities such as organising conferences and workshops and bringing people together for discussions and meetings on recent developments in plant virology. To this effect, the group organizes a 3-day conference ‘Advances in Virology’ every 18 months mainly aiming to encourage PhD students and early career scientists to take up and continue working on plant viruses, which cause severe losses to food production worldwide. The conference includes 3-4 invited speakers of international repute and several presentations from researchers at all stages of careers on every aspect of plant virology from basic science to strategic applied research and development. We offer student competitions in the conference – the Bryan Harrison prize for the best oral presentation and the Raymond and Roger Hull prize for the best poster presentation, which are quite attractive to the students. Our recent conference included a meeting in association with The Society for General Microbiology at Birmingham in the spring of 2015. Our next conference will be held at the historical Naval College of the University of Greenwich in Greenwich Park London 7-9 September 2016. Please register your interest and come along for an exciting meeting that includes great scientific programme as well as a memorable boat trip on the river Thames where you can see London in full colour at night!

In order to foster links between UK and overseas plant virologists especially to help grow the number of people working on plant viruses within Europe, the Virology Group Committee includes three members from European countries (currently The Netherlands, Germany and Spain). Please get in touch with the Convenor if you are interested.



Maruthi Gowda

Dr Maruthi M N Gowda is a Senior Research Fellow at the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) of the University of Greenwich working predominantly on pests and diseases of tropical crop plants.  He has accumulated over 10 years of research experience on wide range of multidisciplinary skills from field epidemiology, molecular biology, tissue culture to functional genomics with particular strengths in plant-insect-virus interactions especially those involving geminiviruses, ipomoviruses and their whitefly vector, Bemisia tabaci.

He did his bachelors (1992-96) at the University of Agricultural Sciences-Bengaluru in India on Agriculture and allied subjects and subsequently did Masters in Plant Pathology (1996-98) specialising in Plant Virology at the same university.  He obtained his PhD in 2001 from NRI for which he worked on the diversity of whitefly and geminiviruses associated with the pandemic of cassava mosaic disease in Africa.  Following the completion of PhD, Dr Gowda joined NRI as a post-doctoral fellow (2001-02), subsequently served as Research Fellow (2002-07) providing molecular biology expertise to various projects.  He is now a senior member of NRI leading a team of researchers using classical as well as innovative technologies on a number of crop plants including cassava, tomatoes, pulse crops, and vegetables.  In the last few years his research has focused on cassava brown streak viruses (CBSVs), which are transmitted by the whitefly B. tabaci to cause cassava brown streak disease in eastern Africa. For CBSVs, he has taken holistic approach to answer key questions such as virus diagnosis, population genetics, virus-host interactions, mining for resistance genes using RNA-Seq and developing/identifying disease-resistant cassava plants.  More recently, he has started working on exploiting endosymbiotic bacteria as a potential bio-control agent for whiteflies, which is another area of his interest. In partnership with a number of international organizations, he has been part of a number of mega programmes on cassava pests and diseases funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other donors. For more information contact Dr Gowda on


Group Members
Adrian Fox

Adrian is the Principle Plant Virologist at the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) and is responsible for the provision of statutory virus diagnostic services to Defra. His work also includes diagnostic validation such as applying deep sequencing approaches to routine diagnostics  and applied research on the epidemiology and transmission of viruses and viroids. He has participated as an external expert on working groups for European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), including co-authorship of a scientific opinion risk assessments on tomato affecting Pospiviroids and on Chrysanthemum stunt viroid.


Recent research work has included: Investigating viral causes of internal necrosis in carrot roots; field epidemiology of non-persistently transmitted potato viruses; Seed transmission of Columnea latent viroid in tomato; as well as validation of a range of new assays including viroid detection in seed and viruses affecting strawberry.


George Lomonossoff

George works at the John Innes Centre at Norwich.

Joel Milner


Rene van der Vlugt


John Walsh

The research on the so-called Turnip mosaic virus (TuMV), led by Dr John Walsh of the University of Warwick and funded under the BBSRC Crop Science Initiative, has been taken forward in a new partnership with Syngenta Seeds.

Dr Walsh said “TuMV causes really nasty-looking black necrotic spots on the plants it infects - ‘a pox on your’ vegetables! This can cause significant yield losses and often leaves an entire crop unfit for marketing. At best, a field of badly affected Brussels sprouts might provide some animal fodder, but these vegetables would not be appealing to most shoppers. The virus is particularly difficult to control because it is transmitted so rapidly to plants by the insect vectors”

Dr Walsh and his team identified the major gene involved in resistance to TuMV and discovered that the way in which it creates resistance is completely new. Using this knowledge, they found that it was possible to identify plants with an inherent resistance that could be used to speed up the breeding process and develop commercial varieties that are resistant to TuMV.

The team from University of Warwick are now working with industry partner Syngenta Seeds to breed resistance into Chinese cabbage. They hope in future to do the same with other crops such as broccoli, cabbage and kale

Thierry Wetzel

Dr. Wetzel is leading the Plant Virology group at RLP Agroscience, AlPlanta, in Neustadt an der Weinstrasse, Germany. The main focus is the molecular identification and characterisation of plant viral pathogens of economical importance occuring locally and/or in temperate/mediterranean crops. The generated information is used for different applications, from the development of molecular diagnostic tools for the detection of viruses to the design of constructs for a better protection of crops via genetic engineering, new vectors for molecular farming, etc... Also, this information is used for further research towards a better understanding of the host-pathogen relationship.

Antonio Olmos

Dr. Antonio Olmos is the Head of the Department of Virology and Immunology at the Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Agrarias (IVIA), Moncada, Valencia, Spain. Research is mainly focused on the development of diagnosis methods and their application to epidemiology with the purpose to establish or improve strategies for prevention or control of plant diseases. Some of these methods have been included in the official protocols of the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization (EPPO), such as those for diagnosis of Plum pox virus (also IPPC-FAO protocol) and Citrus tristeza virus. Four main aspects in the research could be highlighted: i) analysis by deep sequencing for detection and characterization of new viruses, ii) design of real-time PCR and isothermal amplification methods for detection of viruses, iii) development of validated protocols to detect and identify pathogenic agents in plant material or insects vectors, and iv) application of techniques for the control of quarantine diseases with economic impact.


Jens Tilsner

Jens Tilsner is a Lecturer in Plant Molecular Virology at the University of St Andrews and the James Hutton Institute, Dundee. His lab uses cell biology, including RNA in vivo imaging, molecular biology and biochemistry to investigate the mechanisms by which plant viruses spread through their host via intercellular nano-channels (plasmodesmata).

Jens graduated from the University of Bayreuth, Germany in 1999 with a diploma (MSc) in plant ecology. He obtained a PhD in plant biochemistry from the Georg-August-University Göttingen, Germany, in 2003. Since moving to Scotland in 2003, he has been working on plant virus cell-to-cell transport, first as a Marie Curie fellow at Edinburgh University and a postdoctoral researcher at the Scottish Crop research Institute (now James Hutton Institute), since 2012 as an independent research fellow in St Andrews. He was obtained a lectureship at St Andrews in 2015.

Gerard Clover

Gerard is Head of Plant Health in the Royal Horticultural Society in Wisley, Surrey. He is responsible for leading the RHS’s team of plant pathologists and entomologists and developing a programme of research to monitor, identify and control pests and diseases of horticultural plants, answer member enquiries, and disseminate information about pests and diseases.


He obtained his PhD in 1997 from the University of Nottingham having studied the interaction of Beet yellows virus and drought on the growth and physiology of sugar beet. He was then employed by the Central Science Laboratory as a post-doctoral scientist to research the biology of and detection methods for soil-borne cereal viruses. In 2001 he moved to New Zealand to work as a virologist in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s reference laboratory (Plant Health & Environment Laboratory) identifying new viruses, viroids and phytoplasmas in quarantine and during surveillance post-border. He subsequently moved into regulatory policy setting the import requirements for imported plants. In 2007 he moved back to the Plant Health & Environment Laboratory to manage the virology team and to set up a quarantine service to enable the importation of agricultural crops. In 2010 he became overall manager of the reference laboratory before moving back to the UK to join the RHS in 2013


His main area of research is the detection, characterisation and management of virus and virus-like diseases.


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