Prof. Raina Plowright PhD, MS, BVSc
Department of Public and Ecosystem Health at the College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University

Raina Plowright is a Cornell Atkinson Scholar and a Professor in the Department of Public and Ecosystem Health at the College of Veterinary Medicine. Her research program develops the science of pandemic prevention through transdisciplinary leadership, innovation, and translation. Her work advances a One Health approach by bridging the best available science in disease dynamics with effective public health practice and meaningful policy. Plowright’s holistic and multi-level approach is best exemplified by the Bat One Health Research Group, for which she serves as Principal Investigator. Her systematic and interdisciplinary approach focuses on five areas of inquiry: Transmission of pathogens between species, Links between land-use change and pathogen spillover, Dynamics and drivers of viral pathogens in reservoir host populations, Prevention of epidemics, and Implementation of science for the protection of ecosystem and human health.

Plowright was recently named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS). The award cites Plowright’s “distinguished contributions to the field of emerging disease biology, particularly her interdisciplinary leadership into the mechanisms that drive spillover from bats to humans.”

As a Cornell Atkinson Scholar, Plowright joins a distinguished group of Cornell sustainability scholars hired through the Provost’s Radical Collaboration Initiative. Cornell Atkinson Scholars contribute intellectual leadership to priority areas of research and knowledge-to-impact work at Cornell Atkinson. One Health is a key research pillar for Cornell Atkinson and a source of many collaborations and joint efforts with the College of Veterinary Medicine and Weill Cornell Medicine. 


Dr Wilhelm Gerner PhD (Dr. rer. nat.) 
Group Leader ImmunologyVaccinology, The Pirbright Institute

Wilhelm graduated from the University of Tübingen, Germany with a PhD (Dr. rer. nat.) in Immunology for his work on the identification of foot-and-mouth disease virus-derived T cell epitopes in swine and cattle. He spent most of his scientific career at the Institute of Immunology, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna in Austria, starting on a staff scientist position with promotions to Assistant Professor in 2015 and Associate Professor in 2020. He has been a Group Leader at The Pirbright Institute since January 2021.

Wilhelm’s previous research focused on T cells in pigs and their response to various viral and bacterial pathogens like influenza A virus, porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus, Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae and Salmonella Typhimurium. In the last three years, he did also some work on T cells in chickens and turkeys as well as porcine B cells. His most recent research activities focus on T follicular helper cells, which support B cells on their antibody-producing capacities. For his work in Pirbright he envisages to work on T cells in both pigs and cattle, in the context of foot-and-mouth disease virus but also other viruses.

Wilhelm’s research aims to elucidate the interaction of T and B cells in the context of infection and vaccination. Comparative studies in pigs and cattle will help to shed light on mechanisms that contribute either to protection and clearance of disease or pathological outcomes influenced by the host and the virus.


Dr Michelle Baker PhD
Research Scientist, CSIRO

Dr Michelle Baker is a Principal Research Scientist the Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness. She has a PhD from the University of Queensland and postdoctoral training at the University of New Mexico in the US. Dr Baker’s current research is in the area of antiviral immunity, in particular, the innate immune response of reservoir hosts including bats which are hosts to a variety of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases that affect humans. Her research team has made significant progress in characterizing the immune system of the model bat species, the Australian black flying fox and the responses of bat cells to infection with highly pathogenic viruses including the paramyxovirus, Hendra virus and the filovirus, Ebola virus. More recently her team has developed human 3D cell culture models for studying emerging infectious diseases such as SARS-CoV-2 and testing antivirals.