Hendrik N. Poinar



  • Senior Fellow
  • Humans & the Microbiome


  • McMaster University
Departments of Anthropology, Biology and Biochemistry


  • Canada


BSc (Biochemistry, Genetics), California Polytechnic University
PhD (Evolutionary Genetics), Ludwig Maximillians University


Hendrik Poinar is an evolutionary geneticist interested in the preservation and degradation of organic residues in the fossil record.

He devises novel ways to extract these molecules and uses any remaining sequence information to address questions about the past. Recently, he has tried to identify the aetiological agent(s) of past pandemics (Black Death, Plague of Justinian), and to illuminate the evolutionary dynamics of these bacteria (and viruses) during both epidemic and non-epidemic cycles, as well as their reservoirs (hosts and environmental), and the underlying changes in both hosts and pathogen(s) that may explain their increased virulence and, in some cases, subsequent attenuation.


Canada Research Chair

Premier’s Research Excellence Award

Petro-Canada Young Innovators Award

EMBO Fellow

SSHRC Meritorious New Scholar

Relevant Publications

Bos, K.I. et al. "Yersinia pestis genomes from an 18th century mass burial in France reveals the long-term persistence of plague in Europe during the second pandemic." eLife (2016).

Devault, A.M. et al. "A ‘Classical’ genome for the second pandemic strain of Vibrio cholerae, Philadelphia, 1849." New England Journal of Medicine 370, no. 4 (2014): 334–40.

Wagner, D. et al. "Yersinia pestis and the Plague of Justinian 541–543 AD: a genomic analysis." The Lancet Infectious Disease 14, no. 4 (2014): 319–26.

Bos, K. et al. "A draft genome of Yersinia pestis from victims of the Black Death." Nature 478 (2011): 506–10.

D’Costa, V. et al. "Antibiotic resistance is ancient." Nature 477, no. 7365 (2011): 457–61.