The Biology of Virus Spillover

Sara L. Sawyer, Ph.D.

BioFrontiers Institute
University of Colorado Boulder

The Biology of Virus Spillover

Sara L. Sawyer, Ph.D.

BioFrontiers Institute
University of Colorado Boulder

We study how animal viruses evolve as they infect new species, including humans.  We mainly study HIV and dengue virus, but have published research on the spillover of many other viruses as well.

Understanding spillover is critical for predicting and controlling viral epidemics, and it also provides an outstanding example of evolution in action that informs us about biology more generally.


A pandemic is one of the 3 biggest threats the world faces

“When I was a kid, there was really only one existential threat the world faced. The threat of a nuclear war.

By the late 1990s, most reasonable people had come to accept that climate change represented another major threat to humankind.

I view the threat of deadly pandemics right up there with nuclear war and climate change.

Innovation, cooperation, and careful planning can dramatically mitigate the risks presented by each of these threats.”

-Bill Gates