Jeffrey I. Cohen, M.D.

Jeffrey I. Cohen, M.D.

Chief, Laboratory of Infectious Diseases
Chief, Medical Virology Section

Major Areas of Research

  • Development of vaccines against human herpesviruses
  • Identification of cellular variants in patients with severe herpesvirus infections
  • Pathogenesis of human virus infections in vitro and in vivo
  • Identification of cellular proteins important for entry of herpesviruses into cells
  • Analysis of SARS-CoV-2-specific antibody responses

Program Description

We study the molecular genetics, pathogenesis, and clinical aspects of human herpesviruses, including Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), herpes simplex virus (HSV), varicella-zoster virus (VZV), and cytomegalovirus (CMV). The laboratory focuses on vaccine development, cellular proteins important for virus entry and replication, and identification of cellular mutations in patients with severe herpesvirus infections. Recent findings include development of candidate vaccines for HSV and EBV; identification of cellular genes that predispose to severe EBV infections; and novel entry mediators for CMV and VZV.

Clinical projects complement the laboratory studies. These include a Phase I study of a replication defective herpes simplex virus vaccine, studies of patients with severe virus infections to define genetic variants associated with the disease, studies of patients with EBV diseases, a respiratory syncytial virus challenge study, and attempts to identify novel viruses in patients with unexplained syndromes.

Immune Response to COVID-19

NIAID researchers are spearheading a large, international collaboration to investigate the innate and adaptive immune responses during acute COVID-19 infection and convalescence. Read about this lab's participation in Immune Response to COVID-19 research.


Dr. Cohen received his M.D. from The Johns Hopkins University and was a resident in medicine at Duke University. Following a medical staff fellowship at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), he was a clinical fellow in infectious diseases at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor in medicine at Harvard University. He returned to NIH, where he was the chief of the Medical Virology Section in the Laboratory of Clinical Infectious Diseases until 2010. In June 2010, Dr. Cohen became chief of the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases.


  • American Association of Physicians
  • American Society for Clinical Investigation
  • Infectious Diseases Society of America
  • American Academy of Microbiology

Editorial Boards

  • Journal of Virology
  • Virology
  • Journal of Infectious Diseases
  • Virus Genes
  • Associate Editor Fields Virology

Research Group

Mir Ali, Wei Bu, Kennichi Dowdell, Lesia Dropulic, Michael Edzards, Tristan Jordan, Rachel Kim, Tammy Krogmann, Qingxue Li, Sotaro Mine, Kenning Wang, Shu Zhu


Bu W, Joyce MG, Nguyen H, Banh DV, Aguilar F, Tariq Z, Yap ML, Tsujimura Y, Gillespie RA, Tsybovsky Y, Andrews SF, Narpala SR, McDermott AB, Rossmann MG, Yasutomi Y, Nabel GJ, Kanekiyo M, Cohen JI. Immunization with components of the viral fusion apparatus elicits antibodies that neutralize Epstein-Barr virus in B cells and epithelial cells. Immunity 2019, in press.

Wang K, Hoshino Y, Dowdell K, Bosch-Marce M, Myers TG, Sarmiento M, Pesnicak L, Krause PR, Cohen JI. Glutamine supplementation suppresses herpes simplex virus reactivation. J Clin Invest. 2017 Jun 30;127(7):2626-2630.

Li Q, Bu W, Gabriel E, Aguilar F, Hoshino Y, Miyadera H, Hess C, Hornung RL, Roy A, Cohen JI. HLA-DQ β1 alleles associated with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infectivity and EBV gp42 binding to cells. JCI Insight. 2017 Feb 23;2(4):e85687.

Sadaoka T, Depledge DP, Rajbhandari L, Venkatesan A, Breuer J, Cohen JI. In vitro system using human neurons demonstrates that varicella-zoster vaccine virus is impaired for reactivation, but not latency.  Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 Apr 26;113(17):E2403-12.

Kanekiyo M, Bu W, Joyce MG, Meng G, Whittle JR, Baxa U, Yamamoto T, Narpala S, Todd JP, Rao SS, McDermott AB, Koup RA, Rossmann MG, Mascola JR, Graham BS, Cohen JI, Nabel GJ. Rational design of an Epstein-Barr virus vaccine targeting the receptor-binding site. Cell. 2015 Aug 27;162(5):1090-100.

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