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Evolutionary Dynamics of SARS-CoV-2

Wednesday, October 20, 2021 - 3:00pm to 4:00pm


Trevor Bedford, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division
Associate Professor, Herbold Computational Biology Program
Associate Professor, Human Biology Division
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Dr. Trevor Bedford uses powerful computers and complex statistical methods to study the rapid spread and evolution of viruses, including those that cause COVID-19, influenza, Ebola and Zika. Data gathered from these processes help researchers develop successful strategies for monitoring and controlling infectious diseases. His visual representations of viral family trees are used to show how the fate of dangerous outbreaks is often determined by the genetics of the infectious agent, human behavior and geography. Dr. Bedford has applied these techniques to document the worldwide spread of COVID-19 and of seasonal flu viruses. He is developing models to predict which strains of influenza are likely to be most challenging to humans — data that help inform the crucial early decisions about which strains to include in annual flu shots. He specializes in tracking the evolutionary changes of viruses such as HIV and influenza that use RNA, rather than DNA, to carry their genetic information. RNA viruses are much more prone to rapid mutation, which makes many of them particularly nimble at escaping the human immune system and difficult to stop with vaccines. He co-developed an open-source platform called Nextstrain that provides a continually updated view of publicly available viral genomic data alongside powerful analytic and visualization tools. He is a leading advocate for the immediate release of research analyzing viral evolution during epidemics, fresh information that can make a lifesaving difference.


Genomic epidemiology has enabled critical insights during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the forefront of these insights has been SARS-CoV-2's remarkable potential for adaptive evolution. Dr. Bedford will discuss the evolutionary dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 with a focus on the emergence of variant of concern and variant of interest viruses. He will characterize mutational patterns in these variant viruses and chart their spread across geographies. He also will provide a larger perspective on genomic surveillance, projected future viral circulation patterns, and strategies for ongoing pandemic management.

The page was last updated on Tuesday, December 7, 2021 - 4:53pm