Biological Sciences

2019 Ker Memorial Prize awarded for work on the immune system in Drosophila

Edinburgh Infectious Diseases is delighted to announce that the 2019 Ker Memorial Prize has been awarded to Dr Billy Palmer from the School of Biological Sciences.

The Ker Memorial Prize is an annual award made to recognise the best PhD thesis in infectious disease research at the University of Edinburgh. 

Billy carried out his thesis work with Dr Darren Obbard in the Institute of Evolutionary Biology, studying the evolution and genetics of antiviral immunity in Drosophila.

Billy Palmer


Virus infection is detrimental to host fitness, and therefore hosts have evolved immune defences, which limit virus replication. This conflict may result in coevolution of the host and virus genes involved, a process that can define important infection parameters such as host range and virulence. 

To better understand the host genes that may be co-evolving with viruses, I quantified adaptation in immunity genes and isolated a virus native to the model organism Drosophila melanogaster, and mapped host resistance polymorphisms and virus-encoded immune suppressors.

Billy Palmer2019 Ker Memorial Prize winner


Billy is one of the most able, independent, dedicated and productive graduate students I have had the pleasure of meeting.

Darren ObbardUniversity of Edinburgh

He will present his work at the Edinburgh Infectious Diseases Annual symposium on Wednesday 5 June at the Royal College of Physicians in Queen Street, where he will also receive a prize of £500.

Billy is now a postdoc with Prof. Sara Cherry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Related Links

Darren Obbard's Lab