Professor Geoffrey Smith FMedSci FRS

Geoffrey Smith’s work on the vaccinia virus — the vaccine that eradicated smallpox — has improved our understanding of how, upon infecting a cell, viruses replicate and spread to other cells whilst evading the body’s immune system. Geoffrey’s research has also led to vaccinia being used in a common tool for gene expression experiments in the laboratory and as a platform for vaccine development.

He discovered that vaccinia produces receptors to bind interferons, cytokines and chemokines — molecules that ramp up the immune system’s response to infection — and helped to explain how the virus avoids being challenged. More recently, he found that poxviruses, the family of viruses to which vaccinia and variola belong, use a unique mechanism for spreading rapidly between cells.

Geoffrey has been the recipient of several awards throughout his career, including the 1992 Fleming Award of the Society for General Microbiology. In reflection of his considerable expertise in virology, he currently chairs the World Health Organization Advisory Committee on Variola Virus Research.

Professional position

  • Professor, Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford
  • Chair, Scientific Advisory Board, The Pirbright Institute

Subject groups

  • Microbiology, immunology and developmental biology

    General microbiology (incl bacteriology and virology)


  • Leeuwenhoek Medal and Lecture

    For his studies of poxviruses which has had major impact in wider areas, notably vaccine development, biotechnology, host-pathogen interactions and innate immunity.

Professor Geoffrey Smith FMedSci FRS
Elected 2003