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Hendrik N. Poinar

I am an evolutionary geneticist interested in the preservation and degradation of organic residues in the fossil record. I devise novel ways to extract these molecules and use any remaining sequence information to address questions about the past. Recently, our focus has been on trying to identify the aetiological agent(s) of past pandemics (Black Death, Plague of Justinian), illuminate the evolutionary dynamics of these bacteria (and viruses) during both epidemic and non-epidemic cycles, their reservoirs (hosts and environmental) as well as the underlying changes in both hosts and pathogen(s) that may explain their increased virulence and in some cases subsequent attenuation.


Canada Research Chair, 2007-2017.

Premiers Research Excellence Award

Petro-Canada Young Innovators Award

EMBO Fellow

SSHRC Meritorious New Scholar, 2004.

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(4) (2014):334-40.

Wagner, D. et al., "The Plague of Justinian was caused by a ‘dead-end’ emergence of Yersinia pestis." The Lancet Infectious Disease (doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(13)70323-2.) (2014)

Bos, K. et al., "A draft genome of Yersinia pestis from victims of the Black Death." Nature 478 (2011): 506–510

D’Costa, V. et al., "Antibiotic resistance is ancient." Nature (doi:10.1038/nature10388) (2011)



Senior Fellow Humans & the Microbiome


McMaster UniversityAnthropology, Biology, Biochemistry and researcher in the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research


BSc (Biochemistry, Genetics) California Polytechnic University

PhD (Evolutionary Genetics) Ludwig Maximillians University, Munich, Germany



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