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The Pirbright Institute

Genetics and Genomics Group

Group at Compton

The Genetics and Genomics group is interested in understanding the genetics and evolution of animal-pathogen interactions, with the strategic aim of improving the control of viral disease outbreaks. The group is involved in two main areas of research: 1) the study of the genetic basis of avian viral disease resistance; and 2) the study of the basis and evolution of vector competence in Culicoides biting midges. Part of the research we are carrying out presently involves the study of genes involved in chicken resistance to viral diseases and the sequencing of the Culicoides genome to identify the genetic factors that determine midge virus transmission.

Our work falls within both the Vector-borne Viral Diseases (VVD) and the Avian Viral Diseases (AVD) programmes at The Pirbright Institute.

Research Leader:





PhD Students:

  • Ambi Batra
  • Thomas Whitehead


Research Assistants:

  • Karen Billington
  • Nigel Salmon



Contact us

Please email us 

Mark Fife



  1. “Genetic mapping of vector competence in Culicoides sonorensis”. BBSRC Responsive Mode Grants. Collaborator: Dr Paul Kersey, Non-Vertebrate Genomics Group, European Bioinformatics Institute.
  2. “Restriction of avian viruses by host interferon-inducible transmembrane proteins (IFITMs)”. BBSRC Responsive Mode Grants. Collaborator: Prof. Paul Kellam, Viral Genomics Group, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
  3. “Investigate biology of chicken interferon induced transmembrane proteins IFITMs and their role in preventing infection of cells by diverse-viruses”. BBSRC Responsive Mode Grants. Collaborator: Prof. Paul Kellam, Viral Genomics Group, Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute
  4. “Role of AKT1 & SIVA1 in resistance to avian Salmonellosis”. BBSRC Responsive Mode GrantsCollaborators: Prof. Mark P. Stevens, Infection & Immunity, The Roslin Institute; Prof. Pete Kaiser, Animal Infectious Diseases, The Roslin Institute. 

Core funded Projects: 

  1. "The role AKT activation during IBV infection". Collaborators: BioMimetics Health Industries.
  2. “Genetic analysis of Insect vectors”.
  3. “Subversion of host activation by avian viruses”.
  4. “UK flock monitoring”. 



  1.  Whole genome SNP panels for genotyping experimental chicken lines”. BBSRC Responsive Mode Grants.



  1. Gibson MS, Kaiser P, Fife M. The chicken IL-1 family: evolution in the context of the studied vertebrate lineage. Immunogenetics. 2014 May. doi 10.1007/s00251-014-0780-7
  2. Koenraadt CJ1, Balenghien T, Carpenter S, Ducheyne E, Elbers AR, Fife M, et al. Bluetongue, Schmallenberg - what is next? Culicoides-borne viral diseases in the 21st Century. BMC Vet Res. (2014) Mar 31;10(1):77
  3. Nayduch D, Cohnstaedt LW, Saski C, Lawson D, Kersey P, Fife M, Carpenter S. (2013) Studying Culicoides vectors of BTV in the post-genomic era: Resources, bottlenecks to progress and future directions. Virus Res.. doi: 10.1016/j.virusres.2013.12.009
  4. S. Smith, M. S. Gibson, R. Wash, F. Ferrara, E. Wright, N. Temperton, P. Kellam, and M. Fife. (2013) Chicken IFITM3 restricts Influenza viruses and Lyssaviruses in vitro. J. Virology. 87, 12957-12966
  5. Kranis A, Almas A Gheyas, Boschiero C, Turner F, Yu L, Smith S, Talbot R, Pirani A, Brew F, Kaiser P, Hocking P, Fife M et al. Development of a high density 600K SNP genotyping array for chicken. (2013) BMC Genomics, 14:59
  6. Crooijmans R, Fife M et al.  Large scale variation in DNA copy number in chicken breeds. BMC Genomics.(2013) Jun 13;14:398
  7. Gibson MS, Fife M, Salmon N et al. Identification, cloning and functional characterisation of the IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1RN) in the chicken reveal important differences between the chicken and mammals. (2012) Journal of Immunology. 189(2):539-50
  8. Gibson MS, Kaiser P, Salmon N, Bird S, Fife M. Identification, cloning and characterization of Interleukin-1F5 in a non-mammalian species. (2012) Dev Comparative Imm.  E-pub 29 May
  9. Tran TS, Beaumont C, Salmon N, Fife M et al.  A maximum likelihood QTL analysis reveals common genome regions controlling resistance to Salmonella colonization and carrier-state. (2012) BMC Genomics. 13(1):198
  10. Te Pas MF, Hulsegge I, Schokker D, Smits MA, Fife M, Zoorob R, Endale ML, Rebel JM. Meta-analysis of Chicken - Salmonella infection experiments. (2012) BMC Genomics.13(1)
  11. Fife M.S., Howell J.S., Hocking P.M et al. (2011) Genome-wide SNP analysis identifies major QTL for Salmonella colonization in the chicken. Animal Genetics, 42(2): 134-140
  12. Smith J, Sadeyen J, Paton I, Hocking P, Salmon N, Fife M, Nair V, Burt D, and Kaiser P. (2011) Systems Analysis of Immune Responses in Marek's Disease Virus Infected Chickens Identifies a Gene Involved in Susceptibility and Highlights a Possible Novel Pathogenicity Mechanism.  J of Virology, 85, 11146-11158
  13. Fife M., Salmon N, Hocking P, Kaiser P. Fine mapping of the chicken salmonellosis resistance locus (SAL1). (2010) Animal Genetics 40(6) pp 871-877
  14. Kaiser P, Wu Z, Rothwell L, Fife M, et.al. Prospects for understanding immune-endocrine interactions in the chicken. Gen Comp Endocrinol. (2009) Sep 1;163(1-2):83-91
  15. Gibson MS, Kaiser P, Fife M. Identification of chicken granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF/CSF3): the previously described myelomonocytic growth factor is actually CSF3. J Interferon Cytokine Res. (2009). 29(6):339-43