Herbert Whiting Virgin IV
Elected 1998

Herbert "Skip" Virgin, M.D., Ph.D., received A.B., M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard University and Harvard Medical School. He trained in internal medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and in infectious diseases at Barnes Hospital. He joined the faculty at Washington University School of Medicine in 1990. From 2006-2017 he was Mallinckrodt Professor and Chair of the Department of Pathology & Immunology at Washington University School of Medicine. In that position he was responsible for both a basic science department (Immunology) and the diagnostic and pathology laboratories and services at Barnes-Jewish-Christian Hospital and Saint Louis Children’s Hospital.

From 2009-2014 he served as the Director and Principal Investigator of the NIH-funded Midwest Regional Center of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Disease Research. This Center was created after the events of 9-11 to develop countermeasures for emerging infectious diseases and infectious agents engineered will ill intent. In 2014 he became the Director and Principal Investigator of an NIH-funded Center for Excellence in Translational Research using functional genetics, computational approaches and novel chemical biology approaches to discover broad-spectrum host-directed therapies for infection.

While Chief Scientific Officer at Vir Biotechnology from 2018-22, Dr. Virgin directed a drug discovery and development effort focused on immune approaches to prevention and treatment of severe infectious diseases, generating the approved monoclonal antibody sotrovimab for treatment of COVID-19 in at-risk persons. Other programs that moved into the clinic were an siRNA and an engineered ‘vaccinal’ monoclonal antibody for hepatitis B and hepatitis delta viruses, a monoclonal antibody for prevention of influenza A infection, and a viral vector-based vaccine for HIV. Under Dr. Virgin’s direction, Vir scientists built a functional genomics pipeline to identify host targets for broadly-active antiviral medicines, and built a machine learning and AI program for prediction of target biology and human responses to disease.  Dr. Virgin served as the Head of the institute of Medicine and the Chief Medical Officer at Altos labs from 2022 to 2023.

He is a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences, the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the Association of American Physicians and the American Academy of Microbiology. He is a past member of the board of reviewing editors at Science and Cell.  

Dr. Virgin is an author of 257 peer reviewed manuscripts and many reviews in major journals. His laboratory identified the role and mechanisms of several RNA and DNA virus immune evasion molecules, and studied immune effector mechanisms including ISG15, interferon-γ, interferon-λ, interferon-α, cGAS and autophagy genes. They used a combination of viral and host genetics to perform ‘host-complementation’ to identify mechanisms of action of host defense proteins in vivo. His team discovered the role of the human disease susceptibility gene ATG16L1 in intestinal Paneth cells in patients with Crohn’s disease. Pathogen discovery efforts led to the discovery of murine norovirus, the first culture of a norovirus and the demonstration that virus infection can trigger novel disease-like pathologies in mice carrying mutations in human disease-susceptibility genes. They linked the human virome to enteropathy in AIDS, inflammatory bowel diseases, and risk for the development of type 1 diabetes. His team discovered sterilizing innate immunity and its regulation by the bacterial microbiome. Machine learning and computational approaches led to discoveries of predictive biomarkers of human disease outcome and prediction of the structure of future SARS-CoV-2 variants.

Dr. Virgin is particularly proud to have served on more than 100 thesis committees and to have trained investigators including: Mark Heise (UNC, tenure); Karen Weck (UNC); Margaret MacDonald (Rockefeller), Sharookh Kapadia (Genentech); Barbara Haller (UCSF); Linda van Dyk (Univ. Colorado, tenure), Scott Tibbetts (Univ. Florida, tenure); Stephanie Karst (Univ. Florida, tenure); Felipe Suarez (Université Paris Descartes), Linda Van Dyk (Univ. Colorado, tenure); Christiane Wobus (Univ. Michigan, tenure); Becky Sparks-Thissen (Univ. S. Indiana); Larissa Thackray (Washington Univ.); Nat Moorman (UNC); Rachel Presti (Washington University School of Medicine); Doug White (Gundersen Health System/Univ. of Wisconsin); Vera Tarakanova (Medical College of Wisconsin, tenure); Shivaprakash Gangappa (CDC); Deborah Lenschow (Washington Univ., tenure); Ken Cadwell (University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, tenure), Seungmin Hwang (Broad Institute), Tiffany Reese (UTSW School of Medicine, tenure), Tim Nice (OHSU), Megan Baldridge (Washington University School of Medicine, tenure), Donna MacDuff (University of Illinois), Craig Wilen (Yale), Robert Orchard. (U. T. Southwestern), Sanghyun Lee (Brown), Yating Wang (Tsinghua University, Beijing China) and Qun Lu (Yunnan University, Kunming China).


Honors / awards

National Academy of Sciences (2016)