Robin Weiss studies viruses linked to cancer and to HIV/AIDS. Using Rous sarcoma virus to probe the transformation of normal cells into malignancy, he discovered the transmission of retroviruses as genetic elements inherited by the host. He became increasingly interested in human viruses, their modes of transmission, and the risk factors involved their spread.
He developed ’pseudotype’ retrovirus particles bearing unrelated envelope glycoproteins to identify cell surface receptors used by viruses, and how to prevent infection, especially by neutralising antibodies, most recently exploiting natural single-chain antibody derivatives from llamas. Pseudotypes based on viral vectors carrying reporter genes facilitate the identification of neutralising antibodies and other agents that block cell entry - without the need for a high containment laboratory. They are useful for studying immunity and candidate vaccines for highly pathogenic viruses such as HIV, Ebola and Coronaviruses.
He pioneered the identification of certain cancers as transmissible ’cellular parasites’, showing that the canine transmissible venereal tumour is a single cell clone that has spread worldwide since its emergence ~10,000 years ago, and how it evades immune rejection. He writes on the history of virology and infectious diseases.
Former Director, Institute of Cancer Research Emeritus Professor of Viral Oncology, Division of Infection and Immunity, University College London (UCL) Former President, Microbiology Society
Leeuwenhoek Medal and Lecture
On 'From Pan to pandemic: animal to human infections'.