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College of Veterinary Medicine

Stephen Higgs, Ph.D, F.R.E.S., F.A.S.T.M.H.

 HiggsAssociate Vice President for Research,
Research Director, Biosecurity Research Institute (BRI)

B.Sc., Zoology, (HONS)1980
   King’s College, London, UK
Ph.D., Parasitology, 1985  
   University of Reading, UK
Fellow, 1992
   Royal Entomological Society
Fellow, 2012
   American Society for Tropical
   Medicine and Hygiene

Peine Professor of Biosecurity
Professor, Diagnostic Medicine & Pathobiology,
Kansas State University.
Past-President, American Society for Tropical Medicine & Hygiene (2016)
Editor-in-Chief, Vector-Borne & Zoonotic Diseases.
Tel:  785 532 1333
Fax: 785 532 0973


I joined Kansas State University in July 2011 as the Associate Vice President for Research and the Director of the Biosecurity Research Institute (BRI). In these roles, I am committed to the strengthening of existing research and the development of new research opportunities that enables the BRI to become an internationally recognized center for research on all aspects of animal and plant diseases, food safety and security, and related public health issues. This is aligned with accomplishing the K-State 2025 goal of becoming a top 50 research university. I personally believe in the importance and power of working as collaborative teams. With K-State faculty, local and federal Government agencies, the US military and public and private-sector groups from the United States and overseas, our work expands biosafety, biosecurity and biocontainment research and educational programs. The BRI’s state-of-the-art training facilities and our staff are an integral component of the BRI’s success that establishes the next generation of expertise in these fields. The BRI training facility allows students the opportunity to train for, successfully compete for, and pursue diverse and exciting careers. The BRI training facility is also available for training for our partners.

With interdisciplinary biosecurity research programs, agrosecurity initiatives and the development of collaborative research, the BRI is the all-important platform for transitioning work currently conducted at the Plum Island Animal Diseases Center (PIADC) to the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF). The long-established expertise in many K-State academic colleges and departments, and the presence of multiple groups, for example, the Center of Excellence for Emerging Animal Diseases (CEEZAD), the Center for Grain and Animal Health (CGAHR), the Arthropod-Borne Animal Diseases Unit (ABADRU), and the National Agricultural Biosecurity Center (NABC), ensures the safe, secure continuance of our Nation’s research on potential threats to our agricultural and food industries and related public health.

External Administration

I am currently Editor-in-Chief of the international journal Vector-Borne & Zoonotic Diseases and am on the Editorial Board of Health Security (formerly Biosecurity and Bioterrorism. Biodefense Strategy, Practice and Science). I am the recent Past-President of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, ex-Chairman of the Society’s Education Committee, ex-Chairman of the Policy and Advocacy Committee, a member of the Membership Committee, a member of the Subcommittee on Arbovirus Laboratory Safety (SALS) and a member of the Subcommittee on the Evaluation of Arthropod-borne Status (SEAS). As a past Chairman of the American Committee for Medical Entomology, I helped to develop containment guidelines for both vectors and the agents they transmit at different biosafety levels. These guidelines are internationally accepted as a standard for safe, secure research on arthropods that vector a variety of pathogens.

Educational Activity

At Kansas State University, I have served as chair or as a member of numerous student Ph.D. Committees. Former students have successful careers in vector-borne infectious diseases at facilities such as the CDC's Division of Vector-Borne and Infectious Disease, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, and numerous Universities.


My philosophy and commitment to develop collaborations for the benefit of all parties, is the key to my research success. Through networking with national public and private-sector entities, and international pharmaceutical companies I interface with senior personnel to developed collaborative multidisciplinary scientific investigations and research programs that includes: vector biology, infectious diseases, immunology, and vaccine development. The ability to offer researchers from other Institutes the opportunities to conduct research in complex biocontainment research facilities with appropriate security has resulted in a history of success with respect to obtaining competitive federal funding.

The fundamental philosophy underlying my scientific career is to leverage and coordinate specific expertise and understanding, to empower individuals for personal growth so that they realize their full potential, and to develop collaborative projects that bring together complimentary resources and disciplines. The facilities and the individuals with whom I have had the privilege to work have resulted in a very satisfying ongoing research program.  With competitive funding from varied sources over the years, I have directed my group’s multidisciplinary research that encompasses many aspects of vector-borne viruses, with my particular interests focusing on mosquito-virus-vertebrate interactions. Using wild type and genetically engineered chikungunya, Sindbis, o’nyong nyong, West Nile, yellow fever, and Zika viruses we have been examining fundamental aspects of virus-vector interactions. Projects have involved vaccine development and evaluation, including genetic modification, vector competence tests and non-human primate experiments. Our research on a chikungunya virus (CHIKV) vaccine (Nature Medicine, 2010) was preceded by a long standing interest in this virus that began before the ongoing epidemic that has recently infected over 2M people. Our development of patented infectious clones of this CHIKV has placed us at the forefront of research on this virus. We have distributed these research tools to other groups in an effort to better understand the epidemic.

Collaborations with colleagues has led to funding support from the National Institutes of Health, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and various Pharmaceutical companies. One of my contributions to science is the discovery that infection of vertebrates with a virus is influenced by the route of infection. Specifically, needle inoculation as routinely used for laboratory-based animal infections, does not accurately mimic delivery by a feeding mosquito which is the route by which most animals are infected in nature. When delivered by mosquitoes, the vector saliva in which the virus is secreted can enhance infection efficiency via recruitment of susceptible target to the delivery site. Furthermore, the progression and severity of disease can be accelerated and exacerbated due to immunomodulatory activity of salivary proteins.

Recent Publications (2015-2016)

Rosenthal, P.J., Hill, D.R., Bausch, D.G., Goraleski, K.A., Higgs, S., Walker, P.F., Plowe, C.V. (2016). The (International) American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Editorial. Am J Trop Med Hyg Nov 2;95(5):980-982. PMID: 27807294

Osuna, C.E., Lim, S.Y., Deleage, C., Griffin, B.D., Stein, D., Schroeder, L.T., Omange, R., Best, K., Luo, M., Hraber, P.T., Andersen-Elyard, H., Ojeda, E.F., Huang, S., Vanlandingham, D.L., Higgs, S., Perelson, A.S., Estes, J.D., Safronetz, D., Lewis, M.G., Whitney, J.B. (2016). Zika viral dynamics and shedding in rhesus and cynomolgus macaques. Nat Med 2016 Oct 3. doi: 10.1038/nm.4206. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 27694931.

Carlson, J., O'Donnell, V., Alfano, M., Velazquez Salinas, L., Holinka, L.G., Krug, P.W., Gladue, D.P., Higgs, S., Borca, M.V. (2016). Association of the host immune response with protection using a live attenuated African Swine Fever virus model. Viruses Oct 22;8(10). PMID: 27782090.

Dowd, K.A., Ko, S.Y., Morabito, K.M., Yang, E.S., Pelc, R.S., DeMaso, C.R., Castilho, L.R., Abbink, P., Boyd, M., Nityanandam, R., Gordon, D.N., Gallagher, J.R., Chen, X., Todd, J.P., Tsybovsky, Y., Harris, A., Huang, YS., Higgs, S., Vanlandingham, D.L., Andersen, H., Lewis, M.G., De La Barrera, R., Eckels, K.H., Jarman, R.G., Nason, M.C., Barouch, D.H., Roederer, M., Kong, W.P., Mascola, J.R., Pierson, T.C., Graham, B.S. (2016). Rapid development of a DNA vaccine for Zika virus. Science Oct 14; 354(6309):237-240.

Huang, Y-J. S., Hettenbach, S.M., Park, S.L., Higgs, S., Barrett, A.D., Hsu, W.W., Harbin, J.N., Cohnstaedt, L.W., Vanlandingham, D.L. (2016). Differential infectivities among different Japanese encephalitis virus genotypes in Culex quinquefasciatus mosquitoes. PLoS Negl. Trop. Dis. Oct 5;10(10):e0005038. PMID: 27706157.

Higgs, S. (2016). Journal of Medical Entomology September 2016 - Vol 53 - No 5 - Front Cover (2016). J Med Entomol. Sep;53(5):i1. doi: 10.1093/jme/tjv224. PMID: 27591756.

Huang, Y-J. S., Ayers, V.B., Lyons, A.C., Unlu, I., Alto, B.W., Cohnstaedt, L.W., Higgs, S. & Vanlandingham, D.L (2016). Culex species mosquitoes and Zika virus. Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Dis. Oct;16(10):673-6. PMID: 27556838.

Lani, R., Hassandarvish, P., Shu, M.H., Phoon, W.H., Chu, J.J., Higgs, S., Vanlandingham, D.L., Abu Bakar, S., Zandi, K. (2016). Antiviral activity of selected flavonoids against Chikungunya virus. Antiviral Research 133:50-61.

Higgs, S. (2016). Yellow fever virus: Cause for concern or alarm? Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. Aug;16(8):499-500. PMID: 27399929.

Troupin, A., Londono-Renteria, B., Conway, M.J., Cloherty, E., Jameson, S., Higgs, S., Vanlandingham, D.L., Fikrig, E., Colpitts, T.M. (2016). A novel mosquito ubiquitin targets viral envelope protein for degradation and reduces virion production during dengue virus infection. Biochim Biophys Acta. Sep;1860(9):1898-909. PMID: 27241849.

Vanlandingham, D.L., Higgs, S., Huang, Y.J. (2016). Aedes albopictus (Diptera: Culicidae) and mosquito-borne viruses in the United States. J Med Entomol Sep;53(5):1024-8. PMID: 27113107.

Park, S.L., Huang, Y.J., Hsu, W.W., Hettenbach, S.M., Higgs, S., Vanlandingham, D.L. (2016). Virus-specific thermostability and heat inactivation profiles of alphaviruses. J Virol Methods Aug;234:152-5. PMID: 27079828.

Higgs, S. (2016). Zika virus: Emergence or emergency. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. Feb;16(2):75-6. PMID: 26824625.

Huang, Y-J.S., Hsu, W.W., Higgs, S., & Vanlandingham, D.L. (2015). Temperature tolerance and inactivation of Chikungunya virus. Vector-Borne Zoonotic Dis. 15(11):674-7. doi:10.1089/vbz.2015.1795. PMID: 26565772

Huang, Y-J.S., Harbin, J.N., Hettenbach, S.M., Maki, E., Cohnstaedt, L.W., Barrett, A.D.T, Higgs, S., & Vanlandingham, D.L. (2015). Susceptibility of a North American Culex quinquefasciatus to Japanese Encephalitis virus. Vector-Borne Zoonotic Dis. 15(11):709-11. doi:10.1089/vbz.2015.1821. PMID: 26565775.

Londono-Renteria, B., Troupin, A., Conway, M.J., Vesely, D., Ledizet, M., Roundy, C.M., Cloherty, E., Jameson, S., Vanlandingham, D., Higgs, S., Fikrig, E. & Colpitts, TM. (2015). Dengue virus infection of Aedes aegypti requires a putative cysteine rich venom protein. PLoS Pathogens 11: e1005202. PMID: 26491875 PMCID: PMC4619585

Higgs, S. & Vanlandingham, D.L. (2015). The potential for the establishment of new arbovirus transmission cycles in Europe. Trans. Royal Soc. Trop. Med. & Hyg.; doi: 10.1093/trstmh/trv061

Lani, R., Hassandarvish, P., Chiam, C.W., Moghaddam, E., Chu, J.J., Rausalu, K., Merits, A., Higgs, S., Vanlandingham, D., Abu Bakar, S., Zandi, K. (2015). Antiviral activity of silymarin against chikungunya virus. Sci Rep.;5:11421.

Higgs, S. & Vanlandingham, D.L. Chikungunya virus and its mosquito vectors. Vector-Borne & Zoonotic Diseases 15. DOI: 10.1089/vbz.2014.1745

Roques, P., Ng, L.F.P., Sam, I-C. & Higgs, S. Chikungunya: International Focus Issue. Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases. 15: 221-222.

Nuckols, J.T., Huang, Y-J. S., Higgs, S., Miller, A.L., Pyles, R.B., Spratt, H., Horne, K.M., Vanlandingham, D.L. (2015). Evaluation of Simultaneous Transmission of Chikungunya Virus and Dengue Virus Type 2 in Infected Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus  (Diptera: Culicidae). J. Medical Entomology May;52(3):447-51. PMID: 26334820 PMCID: PMC4581484.

Higgs, S. & Vanlandingham, D.L. (2015). Chikungunya: Here Today, Where Tomorrow? International Health 7: 1-3.