Yoshihiro Kawaoka heads the Influenza Research Institute of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is Professor of the Institute of Medical Science of the University of Tokyo. Dr. Kawaoka is a virologist recognized for his work on the pathogenesis of viral infections. He is known particularly for his studies on influenza and Ebola viruses that have delineated the role of viral and host contributions to pathogenesis and interspecies transmission. Dr. Kawaoka was born in Kobe City, Japan, in 1955 and grew up there. He received his BS (1978), MS (1980), and PhD (1983) degrees from Hokkaido University and his DVM degree (1980) from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fishery, Japan. He was a postdoctoral fellow at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and joined the faculty in 1985 before he became a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1997 and at the University of Tokyo in 1999.

Research Interests

I am interested in various aspects of influenza virus infection. I have demonstrated that modification of the cleavage site sequence of the hemagglutinin protein alone could attenuate highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses without affecting viral antigenicity. In addition, my team was the first to establish a reverse genetics technology that allows us to generate influenza viruses sorely from cloned cDNA. This technology has led to fundamental discoveries in the field and is used by WHO laboratories to develop human vaccines containing attenuated H5N1 avian virus strains and by government agencies throughout the world to rapidly identify lethal avian influenza viruses. In addition, I have identified the molecular mechanisms by which avian influenza viruses cross host species barriers and infect humans. In parts of the world where H5N1 human infections persist, identification of these markers is essential to surveillance programs and control strategies. Our current research projects include: identification of viral and host factors involved in viral replication, pathogenicity, interspecies transmission, and transmissibility; understanding antigenic evolution of influenza viruses; and development of novel vaccines and antiviral compounds.

Membership Type

International Member

Election Year


Primary Section

Section 61: Animal, Nutritional, and Applied Microbial Sciences

Secondary Section

Section 44: Microbial Biology