The Courtney Group

Queen's University Belfast


Dr David Courtney is the Principal Investigator in the Courtney Group, and with a talented group of research scientists and students, we aim to answer fundamental questions on the importance of post-transcriptional regulation of RNAs during the viral replication cycle of influenza A RNAs in eukaryotic cells.


The primary research focus of my lab is the post-transcriptional regulation of influenza A RNAs, including both mRNA and vRNA. Up to this point our funding and focus has been on regulation of influenza RNAs by RNA modifications, including m6A, m5C, Nm and pseudouridine. This involves mapping modifications, knocking out modification machinery, rescuing hypo-modified viruses and elucidating properties of viral RNAs that are altered due to the presence of modifications. We perform modification mapping to determine the location of RNA modifications using both antibody-based and chemical mapping techniques followed by next-generation sequencing. Knockout cell lines are generated by CRISPR/Cas9 to ablate expression of RNA modification writer or reader proteins, so that we can determine the phenotypic effect of individual components of modification machinery on influenza A replication. Hypo-modified viruses are generated either by growth in writer knockout cells, or through silent mutation of sites of modification followed by rescue of the virus by reverse genetics. Both these methods allow us to characterise the effects of individual modifications on the replication of individual viral segments. Finally, we strive to elucidate whether these individual RNA modifications elicit their effects through manipulation of RNA structure or alterations to the RNA-binding protein landscape.


  • I completed my BSc in Biomedical Sciences from Ulster University, UK in 2012.

  • During my degree I spent a placement year at GlaxoSmithKline working in the biopharmaceutical department

  • I then completed my PhD at the Moore Lab at Ulster University, UK focusing on inheritable corneal dystrophies. During my PhD I received a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship, which allowed me to perform research at Aarhus University in Denmark and the Centre for Regenerative Medicine in Modena, Italy

  • I obtained a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Global Fellowship and took up a postdoctoral position in the lab of Bryan Cullen at Duke University, USA to research the role of RNA modifications of RNA viruses

  • I then returned to Europe in 2019 to complete the final 12 months of my fellowship at the Institut Pasteur, France to define the protein interactome of IAV mRNAs in the lab of Nadia Naffakh

  • Opened up my lab at Queen's University Belfast, UK with the help of an ERC Starting Grant in April 2021