Jeffrey Cohen, M.D.

Chief, Laboratory of Infectious Diseases
Chief, Medical Virology Section

Major Areas of Research

  • Pathogenesis of human virus infections in vitro and in vivo
  • Identification of cellular proteins that interact with herpesviruses
  • Development of vaccines against human herpesviruses
  • Identification of cellular mutations in patients with severe herpesvirus infections

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, genes 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 rhesus EBV; identification of cellular genes that predispose to severe EBV infections; discovery of cells in the blood, other than B cells, that are infected by EBV; and a novel entry molecule for VZV into cells.

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 mutations or polymorphisms associated with the disease, studies of patients with EBV diseases, studies of immune responses in persons after vaccination with the smallpox or varicella vaccines, and attempts to identify novel viruses in patients with unexplained syndromes.


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, Matt Howe, Tammy Krogmann, Qingxue Li, Zeshan Tariq, Sarah Valencia, Briana Van Verdeghem, Kenning Wang


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.

Wang K, Goodman KN, Li DY, Raffeld M, Chavez M, Cohen JI. A Herpes Simplex Virus 2 (HSV-2) gD mutant impaired for neural tropism is superior to an HSV-2 gD subunit vaccine to protect animals from challenge with HSV-2. J Virol. 2015 Nov 11;90(1):562-74.

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.

Li Q, Wilkie AR, Weller M, Liu X, Cohen JI. THY-1 cell surface antigen (CD90) has an important role in the initial stage of human cytomegalovirus infection. PLoS Pathog. 2015 Jul 6;11(7):e1004999.

Sashihara J, Hoshino Y, Bowman JJ, Krogmann T, Burbelo PD, Coffield VM, Kamrud K, Cohen JI. Soluble rhesus lymphocryptovirus gp350 protects against infection and reduces viral loads in animals that become infected with virus after challengePLoS Pathog. 2011 Oct;7(10):e1002308.

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Content last reviewed on November 23, 2016