Stephen Higgs, Ph.D, F.R.E.S., F.A.S.T.M.H.
Associate Vice President for 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
University Distinguished Professor, Diagnostic Medicine & Pathobiology, Kansas State University.
Past-President, American Society for Tropical Medicine & Hygiene (2016)
Editor-in-Chief, Vector-Borne & Zoonotic Diseases.
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.
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.
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.
In addition to collaborating with research scientists overseas and participating in international symposia, I have been a member of external review panels for several international agencies including: the Singapore Government’s Environmental Health Institute, Wellcome Trust, Canada Foundation for Innovation, Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization’s Animal, Food and Health Sciences, and the Institute Pasteur. International honors include: the 51st Bailey K. Ashford Memorial Lecturer, and the Sanofi Pasteur Award for “Outstanding contribution to research and development of the Sanofi Pasteur dengue vaccine."
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, as well as international pharmaceutical companies, I interface with senior personnel to develop collaborative multidisciplinary scientific investigations and research programs that include: 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. Recent collaborations have enabled the evaluation of different vaccines targeted at protecting people from Zika virus infections, as described in publications in Nature, Nature Medicine and Scientific Reports.
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 that 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 (2018-2019)
Higgs, S., Vanlandingham, D.L., and Powers, A. (editors). Chikungunya and Zika Viruses: Global Emerging Health Threats. 1st edition. Elsevier Academic Press, 398pp. 2018. eBook ISBN: 9780128118665. Paperback ISBN: 9780128118658.
- Higgs, S. and Vanlandingham, D.L. (2018). Chikungunya Virus and Zika Virus Transmission Cycles. Chapter 2 in Chikungunya and Zika Viruses: Global Emerging Health Threats, 1st Edition, pp. 15-68. Elsevier Academic Press. . eBook ISBN: 9780128118665. Paperback ISBN: 9780128118658
- Huang, Y-J.S., Vanlandingham, D.L., Higgs, S. (2018). Viral Genetics of Chikungunya Virus and Zika Virus and Its Influence in Their Emergence and Application for Public Health Control Strategies. Chapter 8 in Chikungunya and Zika Viruses: Global Emerging Health Threats, 1st Edition, pp. 237-291. Elsevier Academic Press. . eBook ISBN: 9780128118665. Paperback ISBN: 9780128118658.
- Higgs, S., Huang, Y-J. S., Vanlandingham, D. L. (2017). Mosquito Modulation of Arbovirus-Host Interactions. Chapter 8 in Arthropod Vector: Controller of Disease Transmission; Volume 2: Vector Saliva-Host-Pathogen Interactions. Elsevier Academic Press.
- Vanlandingham, D.L., Huang, Y-J. S. & Higgs, S. (2017). Arthropod Vector Biocontainment. Chapter 19 in Biological Safety: Principles and Practices, 5th Edition, pp. 399-410. Am. Soc. Microbiology Press. ISBN 9781555816209
Articles in peer reviewed journals:
- Oo, A., Rausalu, K., Merits, A., Higgs, S., Vanlandingham, D.L., Bakar, S.A., Zandi, K. (2018). Deciphering the potential of baicalin as an antiviral agent for Chikungunya virus infection. Antiviral Research 150:101-111. PMID: 29269135.
- Stone, D., Lyons, A.C., Huang, Y-J.S., Vanlandingham, D.L., Higgs, S., Blitvich, B.J., Adesiyun, A.A., Santana, S.E., Leiser-Miller, L., Cheetham, S. (2018). Serological evidence of widespread exposure of Grenada fruit bats to chikungunya virus. Zoonoses and Public Health, 65(5):505-511. https://doi.org/10.1111/zph.12460.
- Calisher, C.H. & Higgs, S. (2018). The discovery of arthropod-specific viruses in Hematophagous arthropods: an open door to understanding the mechanisms of arbovirus and arthropod evolution? Annual Review of Entomology 63:87-103. PMID: 29324047.
- Park, S.L., Huang, Y.S., Higgs, S., Vanlandingham, D.L. (2018). Application of a nonpaper based matrix to preserve chikungunya virus infectivity at ambient temperature. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. May;18(5):278-281. PMID 29652645.
- Park, S.L., Huang, Y-J.S., Lyons, A.C., Ayres, V.B., Hettenbach, S.M., McVey, D.S., Burton, K.R., Higgs, S., Vanlandingham, D.L. (2018) North American domestic pigs are susceptible to experimental infection with Japanese encephalitis virus. Scientific Reports 8, Article number: 7951. PMID: 29784969.
- Lyons, A.C., Huang, Y.S., Park, S.L., Ayers, V.B., Hettenbach, S.M., Higgs, S., McVey, D.S., Noronha L., Hsu, W.W., Vanlandingham, D.L. (2018). Shedding of Japanese Encephalitis Virus in oral fluid of infected swine. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis 18(9):469-474. Doi: 10.1089/vbz.2018/2283. PMID: 29742002.
- Valiant, W.G., Huang, Y-J.S., Vanlandingham, D.L., Higgs, S., Lewis, M.G. & Mattapallil, J.J. (2018). Zika convalescent macaques display delayed induction of anmanestic cross-neutralizing antibody responses after dengue infection. Emerging Microbes & Infections 7(1):130. Doi: 10.1038/s41426-018-0132-z. PMID: 3006514.
- Cook, C.L., Huang, Y.S., Lyons, A.C., Alto, B.W., Unlu, I., Higgs, S., Vanlandingham, D.L. 2018. North American Culex pipiens and Culex quinquefasciatus are competent vectors for Usutu virus. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 12(8):e0006732. PMID: 30118480.
- Ayers, V.B., Huang, Y.S., Lyons, A.C., Park, S.L., Higgs, S., Dunlop, J.I., Kohl, A., Alto B.W., Unlu, I., Blitvich, B.J., Vanlandingham, D.L. (2018). Culex tarsalis is a competent vector species for Cache Valley virus. Parasit Vectors 11(1):519. PMID: 30236148. PMCID: PMC6149065.
- Mokhort H., Kovalchuk, A., Sokolovska, O., Higgs, S. (2018). Contribution of vaccination to the reduction of infectious mortality in Ukraine in the second half of the 20th and early 21st century: A comparative population-based study of the dynamics and structure of infectious mortality and incidence. Viral Immunol. 31(10):695-707. PMID: 30300573.
- Dunlop, J.I., Szemiel, A.M., Navarro, A., Wilkie, G.S., Tong, L., Modha, S., Mair, D., Sreenu, V.B., Da Silva Filipe, A., Li, P., Huang, Y.S., Brennan, B., Hughes, J., Vanlandingham, D.L., Higgs, S., Elliott, R.M., Kohl, A. (2018). Development of reverse genetics systems and investigation of host response antagonism and reassortment potential for Cache Valley and Kairi viruses, two emerging orthobunyaviruses of the Americas. PLoS Negl Tropical Diseases 12(10):e0006864. PMID: 30372452.
- Collins, N.D., Beck, A.S., Widen, S.G., Wood, T.G., Higgs, S., Barrett, A.D.T (2018). Structural and non-structural genes contribute to the genetic diversity of RNA viruses. MBio 9(5). PMID: 30377281.
- Medina, L.O., To, A., Lieberman, M.M., Wong, T.A.S., Namekar, M., Nakano, E., Andersen, H., Yalley-Ogunro, J., Greenhouse, J., Higgs, S., Huang, Y.-J.S., Vanlandingham, D.L., Horton, J.S., Clements, D.E., Lehrer, A.T. (2018). A recombinant subunit based Zika virus vaccine is efficacious in non-human primates. Frontiers in Immunology 2018 Nov 8;9:2464. PMID: 30467501 DOI: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.02464.
- Huang, Y-J.S., Higgs, S., Vanlandingham, D.L. (2019). Arbovirus-mosquito vector-host interactions and the impact on transmission and disease pathogenesis of arboviruses. Frontiers in Microbiology 23 Jan; 10:22, doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2019.0022. PMID: 30728812 PMCID: PMC6351451.
- Huang, Y-J.S., Higgs, S., Vanlandingham, D. L. (2019). Emergence and re-emergence of mosquito-borne arboviruses. Current Opinion in Virology 34:104-109. PMID: 30743191.
- Ko, S.-Y., Akahata, W., Yang, E.S., Kong, W.P., Burke, C.W., Honnold, S.P., Nichols, D.K., Huang, Y-J.S., Schieber, G.L., Carlton, K., DaSilva, L., Traina-Dorge, V., Vanlandingham, D.L., Tybovsky, Y., Stephens, T., Baxa, U., Higgs, S., Roy, C.J., Glass, P.J., Mascola, J.R., Nabel, G.J., Rao, S.S. (2019). A virus-like particle vaccine prevents equine encephalitis virus infection in non-human primates. Science Translational Medicine 11(492), eaav3113. PMID: 31092692.
- Valiant, W.G., Mattapallil, M.J., Higgs, S., Huang, Y.S., Vanlandingham, D.L., Lewis, M.G., Mattapallil, J.J. (2019). Simultaneous coinfection of macaques with zika and dengue viruses does not enhance acute plasma viremia but leads to activation of monocyte subsets and biphasic release of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Nature Scientific Reports 9(1):7877 doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-44323-y. PMID: 31133721 PMCID: PMC6536518.
- Calisher, C.H., Higgs, S. (2019). Arthropod-specific viruses: where did they come from, what are they doing and where are they going? Atlas of Science. https://atlasofscience.org/arthropod-specific-viruses-where-did-they-come-from-what-are-they-doing-and-where-are-they-going/#more-27368
- Ayers, V.B., Huang, Y.S., Lyons, A.C., Park, S.L., Dunlop, J.I., Unlu, I., Kohl, A., Higgs, S., Blitvich, B.J., Vanlandingham, D.L. (2019). Infection and transmission of Cache Valley virus by Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. Parasit Vectors 12(1):384. Doi: 10.1186/s13071-019-3643-0. PMID: 31366369.
- Davis, E.H., Beck, A.S., Strother, A.E., Thompson, J.K., Widen, S.G., Higgs, S., Wood, T.G., Barrett, A.D.T. (2019). Attenuation of live-attenuated yellow fever 17D vaccine virus is localized to a high-fidelity replication complex. mBio 10(5). pii: e02294-19. doi:10.1128/mBio.02294-19. PMID: 31641088 PMCID: PMC6805994.
- Young, C.L., Lyons, A.C., Hsu, W.W., Vanlandingham, D.L., Park, S.L., Bilyeu, A.N., Ayers, V.B., Hettenbach, S.M., Zelenka, A.M., Cool, K.R., Peterson, G.J., Higgs, S., Huang, Y.S. (2019). Protection of swine by potent neutralizing anti-Japanese encephalitis virus monoclonal antibodies derived from vaccination. Antiviral Res 174:104675. PMID: 31825852.