A NSW Government website

Premier's Prizes

2020 NSW Scientist of the Year

Professor Edward Holmes

Professor Edward C. Holmes FAA FRSN FRS
The University of Sydney

Professor Edward (Eddie) Holmes is an ARC Australian Laureate Fellow at The University of Sydney, with concurrent appointments in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, the School of Medical Sciences and the Charles Perkins Centre.

Eddie is a global leader in research on the emergence, evolution and spread of viruses. He has a particular interest in investigating how viruses are able to jump species boundaries and emerge in new hosts, occasionally causing disease epidemics and pandemics.

Eddie has made major contributions to our understanding of the fundamental mechanisms by which viruses evolve and helped to pioneer the use of phylogenetic methods to track the spread of viruses within populations. His other major research themes are using genomics to understand the epidemiology of major human and animal pathogens, and revealing the extent and structure of global virus diversity (the so-called “virosphere”).

His work has led to fundamental insights into the origin and spread of numerous viruses that have had a major impact on human and animal health, including hepatitis C, HIV, influenza, West Nile, dengue, Zika and Ebola.

Most recently, Eddie was involved in key research that demonstrated that the virus SARS-CoV-2 was the causative agent of COVID-19 and was the first person to publicly release the genome sequence of the virus in early January 2020, enabling diagnostic tests to be rapidly developed.

He followed this with fundamental research into the animal origins of SARS-CoV-2, helping to demonstrate the presence of related viruses in bats and pangolins, and showing that coronaviruses have a particular ability to jump species boundaries and emerge in new hosts.

Eddie received his undergraduate degree in Anthropology from the University of London (1986) and his PhD from the University of Cambridge (1990). Subsequently, he performed postdoctoral research at the Universities of California, Edinburgh and Oxford.

Between 1993-2004 he held various positions at the University of Oxford, including University Lecturer in Evolutionary Biology and Fellow of New College.

Between 2005-2012 he was a professor at the Pennsylvania State University, USA, simultaneously holding an adjunct position at the Fogarty International Center, National Institutes of Health. In 2012 he joined the University of Sydney as an NHMRC Australia Fellow.

Eddie has received a number of awards and prizes for his research:

  • In 2003 he was awarded the Scientific Medal by the Zoological Society of London
  • In 2008 he became a Kavli Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, USA
  • In 2010 he won the Faculty Scholars Medal in the Life and Health Sciences at the Pennsylvania State University
  • In 2017 he won the NSW Premier’s Prize for Science & Engineering in the Biological Sciences.

Eddie was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (FAA) in 2015 and a Fellow of the UK Royal Society (FRS) in 2017. He has published over 600 peer-reviewed papers and two books, and his work has been cited more than 76,000 times (h-index 140).