Asher Leeks

Research Interests

Social evolution in viruses

Viruses can interact whenever they share the same cells or hosts, opening the door for both cooperation and conflict between different viral variants. These interactions can have drastic effects on the fitness of viruses, with important consequences for infection outcomes, epidemiology, and emergence.

I use a combination of theoretical and empirical methods to study how these virus-virus interactions evolve, and their consequences for viral infections.

Theoretical work

My theoretical work is based in social evolution theory. Social evolution theory is useful because it provides a broad body of ideas that apply across life on Earth, from birds to bacteria, and now to viruses too. Viruses offer an exceptional opportunity to test and expand this body of theory, with viral biology providing a stream of evolutionary puzzles to explore. For more details about my theoretical research to date, please see my Publications page.

Empirical work

In my empirical work, I am interested in how viral social interactions play out in natural infections. Most existing work on viral social interactions is either theoretical, or has been done under laboratory conditions. I use within-host viral sequencing datasets to understand the role that viral social interactions play in clinical infections, and to test evolutionary hypotheses about viral social evolution.


For more details about my research interests, please see my personal website (asherleeks.com).

For an up-to-date list of my publications, please check my Google Scholar page.

Publications