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Gary Whittaker, PhD

Dr. Gary Whittaker

Department of Microbiology and Immunology

James Law Professor of Virology

Department of Public and Ecosystem Health

James Law Professor of Virology, Master of Public Health Program
Director of Graduate Studies, Graduate Field of Public Health and Planetary Health

Feline Health Research

Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
T8-016C Veterinary Research Tower
Ithaca, NY 14853

Department of Public & Ecosystem Health
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
Ithaca, NY 14853

Office: 607-253-4019

Research Interest

The structure and function of viral envelope proteins—how genomic mutations lead to changes in the envelope proteins and control viral pathogenesis in influenza viruses and coronaviruses—SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV and feline coronaviruses; novel vaccines and diagnostic test development.

Dr. Whittaker's FIP research is highlighted in this video.


Ph.D. (University of Leeds, UK)

Biography/Professional Experience

Dr. Whittaker studied Microbiology and Biochemistry at the University of Leeds (UK). He was awarded a PhD degree in 1991, with a focus on the glycoproteins of herpesviruses. He then did post-doctoral studies on influenza virus at Yale Medical School before moving to Cornell in 1996, where his research is focused on coronaviruses of humans and animals. He is a currently a Professor in the Departments of Microbiology & Immunology and Public & Ecosystem Health 

Selected Publications

Click here for a complete list of publications

  • Belouzard, S., Chu. V.C. and Whittaker, G.R. (2009). Activation of the SARS-coronavirus spike protein via sequential proteolytic cleavage at two distinct sites.  Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA  106: 5871-5876.
  • Healey, E.A., André, N.M., Miller, A.D., Whittaker, G.R., Berliner E.A. (2022). An outbreak of FIP in a cohort of shelter-housed cats: molecular analysis of the feline coronavirus S1/S2 cleavage site consistent with a “circulating virulent-avirulent” theory of FIP pathogenesis. J.Feline Med. Surg. Open Rep., doi:10.1177/20551169221074226.
  • Shapira, T., Monreal, I.A., Dion, S.P., Buchholz, D.W., Imbiakha, B., Olmstead, A.D., Jager, M.,  Désilets, A.,  Gao, G., Martins, M., Vandal, T., Thompson, C.A.H., Chin, A., Rees, W.D., Steiner, T., Nabi, I.R., Marsault, E., Sahler, J., Diel, D., Van de Walle, G., August, A., Whittaker, G.R., Boudreault, P-L., Leduc, R., Aguilar, H.C., Jean, F. (2022). A TMPRSS2 inhibitor acts as a pan-SARS-CoV-2 prophylactic and therapeutic. Nature 605: 340–348.
  • Olarte-Castillo, X.A, Licitra, B., André, N.M., Sierra M., Mason, C., Goodman, L.B. and Whittaker, G.R. (2023). Intra-host variation in the spike S1/S2 region of a feline coronavirus type-1 in a cat with persistent infection. BIORXIV. 
  • Carten, J.D., Khelashvili, G., Bidon, M., Straus, M.R. Tang, T., Whittaker G.R. Weinstein, H., and Daniel, S. (2024). A mechanistic understanding of the modes of Ca2+ ion binding to the SARS-CoV-1 fusion peptide and their role in the dynamics of host membrane penetration ACS Infectious Diseases. acsinfecdis.3c00260 
  • Jaimes, J.A, Millet, J. K. Stout, A.E., André, N.M. and Whittaker G.R. (2020). A tale of two viruses: The distinct spike glycoproteins of feline coronaviruses. Viruses 12, 83.
  • Gamble, A., Olarte-Castillo, X.A. and Whittaker, G.R. (2023). Backyard Zoonoses: The Roles of Companion Animals and Peri-Domestic Wildlife. Science Translational Medicine, 18 Oct 2023, Vol 15, Issue 718. DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.adj003
  • Licitra, B. and Whittaker, G.R. (2023) Coronavirus infections (canine and feline) including feline infectious peritonitis,  pp. 1050-1059, in Ettinger’s Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 9th edition, 2023, eds. Ettinger, S.J., Feldman E.C. and Coté, E. (Elsevier). ISBN: 9780323779319.

Awards and Honors

Pfizer/Zoetis Animal Health Award for Research Excellence (2001)

Professional/Academic Affiliations

  • At-Large Director, International Society for Companion Animal Diseases (ISCAID)
  • Member, Cornell K. Lisa Yang Center for Wildlife Health

Dr. Whittaker is a member of the following Graduate Fields: