Professor Jonathan Ball

Deputy Director of Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Professor of Molecular Virology

Jonathan Ball obtained his BSc in Applied Biological Sciences at Bristol Polytechnic in 1987 and then, after a brief spell working on HIV at the Centre for Applied Microbiology Research, Porton Down continued HIV research at the Regional Virus Laboratory in Birmingham, where he studied part-time for a PhD in Virology registered at the University of Warwick. After completing PhD studies, he moved to the University of Nottingham as principal investigator on multiple MRC grants to research the consequences of genetic variability of HIV-1 on disease pathogenesis. 

Jonathan has extensive experience in higher education leadership roles including Director of Postgraduate Studies and Director of Research and Knowledge Exchange within the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Nottingham. He was also the founding Director of the Wolfson Centre for Global Virus Research – an interdisciplinary team of researchers from across the Schools of Veterinary Medicine and Science, Life Sciences and Biosciences, whose aim was to broaden scientific understanding and pioneer novel approaches to challenging infections of human and veterinary importance. He left this role to take up the Deputy Directorship at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in October 2023. 

Jonathan is a firm believer in the importance of science communication and, following a British Science Association Media Fellowship at the BBC Science Unit in 2012, has provided expert opinion to variety of print, online and broadcast media outlets on a range of topics related to emerging viruses and vaccinations. For two years over the coronavirus pandemic, he hosted a daily listeners’ Q&A section on the BBC Radio Nottingham Breakfast Show. In 2018 he presented a series for BBC Radio 4 on Biohacking, and the following year represented the University of Warwick in the 2019 University Challenge Christmas Specials and was guest scientist on the Radio 4 programme ‘The Life Scientific’. 


In addition to understanding the consequences of virus genetic variability his research interests expanded to include antibody responses to blood borne viruses, especially HCV, where he led several large EU consortia aimed at better understanding HCV glycoprotein function, and the isolation and clinical development of human and humanised therapeutic monoclonal antibodies, some of which were licensed. More recently, with BBSRC and MRC funding, he has applied expertise in monoclonal antibody discovery to isolation of chimeric human-bovine monoclonals as potential broad-acting therapeutics for current and future emerging virus infections such as SARS-CoV, Ebola and Lassa. In addition to monoclonal antibody discovery, he also has an interest in VLPs as vaccine candidates to important pathogens such as HCV and Zika virus. Finally, he has also applied next generation sequencing and metagenomics approaches to identify novel viruses with spill-over potential in a variety of animals including bats and rodents. Current research, supported by NERC and carried out in collaboration with the Natural History Museum is applying these metagenomic approaches to unlock the records of historic virus populations present in museum collections of preserved mammal specimens by developing an appropriate virus discovery pipeline that can, in future, shed new light on the links between the environment and disease.

Selected publications