Colleen Jonsson's basic and translational research program spans over 30 years in the study of highly pathogenic RNA viruses, including investigations of hantaviruses, influenza viruses, SARS CoV and retroviruses. Her research has addressed basic questions of the viral life cycle and of the ecology and evolution of virus-host relationships. She received bachelor's degrees in chemistry and biology from the University of Missouri, St. Louis, in 1983 and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Purdue University, W. Lafayette, IN, in 1990. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in biochemistry and virology at the University of Medicine and Dentistry-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, NJ, in 1993.
From 1993 to 2003, she was a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at New Mexico State University (NMSU), Las Cruces, NM. At NMSU, Dr. Jonsson helped create the New Mexico Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network with a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Before joining NIMBioS, she was a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Louisville (UofL), KY and director of the Center for Predictive Medicine for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases (CPM). At UofL, she launched the NIH-funded Regional Biocontainment Laboratory (RBL), a critical regional resource for those engaged in research that requires biosafety level three containment (BSL-3). Shortly after "9/11," the NIH implemented a competitive program for requests for universities to build RBLs to address the critical need for secure BSL-3 resources for basic and translational research; the UofL was one of 11 sites chosen to lead an RBL. In 2011 while at UofL, she became an associate member of the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology.
She has also held senior research positions at the Southern Research Institute (SRI), Birmingham, AL, including the director of the Emerging Pathogens Department and the program leader of the Emerging Infectious Disease Research, Drug Discovery Division, while also being an adjunct professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. At SRI, she discovered antivirals against hantavirus, influenza, SARS-COV, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, dengue, respiratory syncytial and West Nile viruses. The research, which led to several patents, was supported by grants and contracts from the Department of Defense, NIH and private companies. In 2008, she was awarded an NIH grant for high-throughput screening of small molecules against bacterial and viral pathogens in biosafety level two and three environments.
Dr. Jonsson has served on the NIMBioS Board of Advisors and also co-organized the NIMBioS Investigative Workshop on Modeling Wildlife and Virus Zoonoses. Dr. Jonsson and workshop co-organizer Linda J. S. Allen (Mathematics and Statistics, Texas Tech Univ., Lubbock) collaborated on a project to study the ecology of hantaviruses in rodents. Funded by a National Science Foundation-NIH Ecology of Infectious Diseases grant, the project aims to formulate and analyze new mathematical models that describe the dynamics of the rodent-hantavirus interaction at the population level and develop landscape tools to uncover the drivers or anthropogenic land cover change factors responsible for the apparent shifting dynamics of hantavirus prevalence in rodent species. The grant has resulted in 23 articles in peer-reviewed journals and 1 invited review that acknowledges NSF support.
During her tenure as NIMBioS director, Dr. Jonsson was the Beaman Distinguished Professor of Microbiology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She is now professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Biochemistry, Van Vleet Chair of Excellence in Virology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis. She is also director of the Regional Biocontainment Laboratory.