Peter Leon Collins, Ph.D.

Senior Investigator

RNA Viruses Section


Building 50, Room 6503
50 South Drive
Bethesda, MD 20892


Research Topics

Dr. Collins’ laboratory works with paramyxoviruses, which are enveloped, cytoplasmic viruses with single-stranded negative-sense RNA genomes of 13-19 kb. Paramyxoviruses include a number of well-known, important pathogens of humans (e.g., mumps and measles viruses) and animals (e.g., rinderpest and NDV), and also include emerging pathogens (e.g., Nipah and Hendra viruses). Dr. Collins played a pioneering role in sequencing and characterizing the genomes and encoded gene products of several paramyxoviruses, in particular human RSV. Later, he played an important role in developing reverse genetics systems for this type of virus, whereby complete infectious virus can be recovered from transfected cDNAs. This provides the basis for introducing predetermined changes into infectious virus for basic research and for vaccine development.

RSV is a leading worldwide agent of respiratory tract disease, especially in young infants. The laboratory also studies several other major pediatric respiratory pathogens, namely HPIV1, 2, and 3 and HMPV. Other areas of interest include the APMVs, represented by NDV, and the murine relative of RSV called PVM. The laboratory is presently using reverse genetics to design live, attenuated vaccines for RSV, HPIV1, 2, and 3, and HMPV for intranasal administration to infants as a pediatric vaccine. In studies supported in part by collaboration with industry, lead candidates for RSV, HPIV1, 2, and 3, and HMPV are in Phase I, and in some cases Phase II, clinical trials. The laboratory also is using NDV and other APMVs as vaccine vectors to express protective antigens of emerging pathogens. The laboratory also investigates basic features of viral molecular biology, pathogenesis, and immunobiology that provide an intellectual foundation for the translational vaccine studies.


Dr. Collins received a Ph.D. in 1981 from the University of Connecticut. He conducted postdoctoral research at the University of North Carolina from 1981 to 1984. At that time, he joined the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, where he received tenure in 1990. He serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Virology, Virology, and Virus Research.

Selected Publications

  1. Liesman RM, Buchholz UJ, Luongo CL, Yang L, Proia AD, DeVincenzo JP, Collins PL, Pickles RJ. RSV-encoded NS2 promotes epithelial cell shedding and distal airway obstruction. J Clin Invest. 2014;124(5):2219-33.

  2. Karron RA, Luongo C, Thumar B, Loehr KM, Englund JA, Collins PL, Buchholz UJ. A gene deletion that up-regulates viral gene expression yields an attenuated RSV vaccine with improved antibody responses in children. Sci Transl Med. 2015;7(312):312ra175.

  3. Le Nouën C, McCarty T, Brown M, Smith ML, Lleras R, Dolan MA, Mehedi M, Yang L, Luongo C, Liang B, Munir S, DiNapoli JM, Mueller S, Wimmer E, Collins PL, Buchholz UJ. Genetic stability of genome-scale deoptimized RNA virus vaccine candidates under selective pressure. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017;114(3):E386-E395.

  4. Mehedi M, McCarty T, Martin SE, Le Nouën C, Buehler E, Chen YC, Smelkinson M, Ganesan S, Fischer ER, Brock LG, Liang B, Munir S, Collins PL, Buchholz UJ. Actin-Related Protein 2 (ARP2) and Virus-Induced Filopodia Facilitate Human Respiratory Syncytial Virus Spread. PLoS Pathog. 2016;12(12):e1006062.

  5. Liang B, Ngwuta JO, Surman S, Kabatova B, Liu X, Lingemann M, Liu X, Yang L, Herbert R, Swerczek J, Chen M, Moin SM, Kumar A, McLellan JS, Kwong PD, Graham BS, Collins PL, Munir S. Improved Prefusion Stability, Optimized Codon Usage, and Augmented Virion Packaging Enhance the Immunogenicity of Respiratory Syncytial Virus Fusion Protein in a Vectored-Vaccine Candidate. J Virol. 2017;91(15).

This page was last updated on February 15th, 2017