Evolution and Health Research Unit

University of Valencia



Sanjuán lab
Comas lab

Mireia Coscollà

Geller Lab

José Manuel Cuevas

Experimental Evolution 2017

Experimental Evolution 2019



Genetics, Molecular and Cell Biology, Virology, Microbiology, Epidemiology, Evolutionary Biology, Systems Biology

The Evolution and Health ("EvoSalud") group is a mixed research unit based at the Institute for Integrative Systems Biology (I2SysBio) and the FISABIO Salud Pública. It is led by two PIs, who are both members of the Genetics Department of the University of Valencia:

Fernando González-Candelas

Rafael Sanjuán

The unit is currently funded by an ERC projects (Consolidator Grant to Rafael Sanjuán), two projects of the Spanish MINECO, and grants from other funding agencies.

We study evolutionary processes in real time and their practical implications, focusing on the following main topics:

Evolutionary epidemiology of pathogens (Fernando González-Candelas): we use gene and genome sequences for epidemiological surveillance, identification of routes of transmission, and analysis of the spread of drug resistances.

Evolutionary systems biology (Fernando González-Candelas): using computational approaches, we integrate genetic, epidemiologic, evolutionary, and immunologic information about pathogens and their hosts, with the hope of gaining insight into the diseases caused by these pathogens.

Experimental virus evolution (Rafael Sanjuán): we are investigating how social traits such as cooperation and cheating evolve in viruses and how they deterimes viral fitness, drug resistance, and genetic diversity. We have also studied other topics such as spontaneous mutation, which is the ultimate source of genetic variation and a key factor determining the remarkable variability and adaptability of viruses.

Directed evolution of oncolytic viruses (Rafael Sanjuán): vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) and other viruses show natural selectivity for tumoral cells, which makes them candidate therapeutic agents against cancer. We use directed evolution as a tool for improving the oncolytic properties of VSV.

RNA viruses and cellular host factors (Geller Lab): RNA viruses have to depend on the cellular machinery to carry out many essential functions in replication since they have very limited capacity to encode their own proteins. We are investigating which components of the cell are used by human RNA viruses, using both respiratory syncytial virus and members of the picornavirus family. Our goal is to better understand fundamental aspects of viral replication and find targets for antiviral therapy, while hopefully learning something about how cells work in the process. Our main focus at the moment is on the interaction of these viruses with cellular chaperones, key components of the cellular machinery that oversees protein folding and assembly.

Harnessing the evolutionary power of RNA viruses via experimental evolution (Geller Lab): RNA viruses have the largest capacity for rapid evolution in nature. This is a big problem for vaccines and antiviral therapies. However, this property can also be harnessed as an invaluable research tool, helping us learn about both host and viral biology. We are setting up methods to employ viral experimental evolution to gain insights into viral biology, the design of viral proteins, and host-pathogen interactions.

Harnessing the evolutionary power of RNA viruses via experimental evolution (Bacterial PathoGenOmics at I2SysBio): The Bacterial PathoGenOmics group at the I2SysBio aims to understand what makes bacteria pathogenic and therefore to identify genomic determinants of virulence phenotypes in bacterial infectious diseases. We use experimental data but also data derived from natural populations of pathogenic bacteria to describe and categorize virulence phenotypes. Our objective is to explain clinical and/or in vitro virulence phenotypes with bacterial biology by integrating infection biology, epidemiology and omics technologies.

At the moment we focus in one of the deadliest pathogens worldwide, Mycobacterium tuberculosis. M. tuberculosis is genetically heterogeneous, and we aim to identify genetic determinants of M. tuberculosis virulence.

The human pathogens we study, both experimentally and with bioinformatic tools, include HIV, tuberculosis, hepatitis C virus, adenovirus, and Legionella.

Universitat de València, 2017