Our People

Leon E. Hugo

Dr | Senior Research Officer

Mosquito Control

+617 3362 0355


Dr Hugo is a Senior Research Officer in the Mosquito Control Laboratory at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. Leon completed a PhD in Tropical Health in 2004. He has over 16 years postdoctoral research experience since 2005, commencing with a placement in the School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland. His work has involved mosquito biomarker discovery, population biology, Wolbachia-induced virus blocking, mosquito proteomics and the development of models of virus and parasite transmission. In recent years, he has applied arbovirus transmission systems to develop new strategies for mosquito-borne disease control.

Dr Hugo is an author or co-author on over 35 publications and has had recent investigator roles on a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) grant, a Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Explorations grant and research contracts with industry. He is an investigator on a recently awarded Wellcome Trust Foundation Innovator Award and a National Foundation for Medical Research Innovation grant.



2017–present:  Senior Research Officer, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute Brisbane, Australia.

2020–present:  Adjunct Associate Professor, Faculty of Health, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia



2018–2019: Visiting Fellow, Faculty of Health, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia

2008-2017:  Research Officer, Mosquito Control Laboratory, Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Brisbane, Australia

2005-2007: Australian Postdoctoral Research Fellow Industry (APDI). University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

1998:  Technical Assistant, CSIRO Division of Entomology, Brisbane, Australia









Dr Hugo’s research goal is develop new strategies for mosquito-borne disease control and surveillance. One strategy is to utilize Defective Interfering Particles (DIPs) of viruses for dengue control. DIPs are harmless by-products of RNA virus infection that resemble virus particles but contain greatly reduced genomes. In high abundance, DIPs can inhibit replication of the parent virus. We recently identified naturally occurring dengue DIPs in mosquitoes as part of project funded by the US Defense Research Projects Agency (DARPA). This project attracted an Innovator Award from the Wellcome Trust Foundation to develop a DIP-based dengue control strategy in collaboration with the HIV and Molecular Virology Laboratory, QIMR Berghofer. Dr Hugo also collaborates on projects testing the safety of arbovirus vaccine candidates, developing new diagnostic assays for mosquito-borne infections and elucidating mosquito-virus interactions. Dr Hugo uses techniques in entomology, arbovirology, histology, microscopy, molecular biology and proteomics and works in state-of-the-art biosecurity level 2 and 3 insectaries and infection suites at QIMR Berghofer.



  • Discovery: Zika virus modulates the innate antiviral response in mosquitoes to enhance infection. Zika virus noncoding RNA suppresses apoptosis and is required for virus transmission by mosquitoes. Slonchak A, Hugo L. E. , Freney M. E. , Hall-Mendelin S., Amarilla A. A., Torres F. J., Setoh Y. X. , Peng N. Y. G., Sng J. D. J., Hall R. A., van den Hurk A. F., Devine G. J., Khromykh A.A. Nat Commun. 2020 May 5;11(1):2205
  • Demonstration: Evaluation of the ability of Queensland strains of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to transmit a newly isolated strain of dengue virus from the forests of Borneo. Pickering P.†, Hugo L. E.†, Devine G. J., Aaskov J. G., Liu W. Australian Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are susceptible to infection with a highly divergent and sylvatic strain of dengue virus type 2 but are unlikely to transmit it. Parasit. Vectors. 2020 May 11;13(1):240 † Equal contribution
  • Demonstration: Queensland strains of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are highly competent vectors of an epidemic strain of Zika virus from Brazil. Hugo, L. E.†, L. Stassen†, J. La, E. Gosden, O. Ekwudu, C. Winterford, E. Viennet, H. M. Faddy, G. J. Devine and F. D. Frentiu (2019). “Vector competence of Australian Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus for an epidemic strain of Zika virus.” PLoS Negl. Trop. Dis. 13(4): e0007281. † Equal contribution.
  • Summary: A review of the application of proteomics to Anopheles mosquitoes; vectors of malaria. Hugo, R. L. E., and G. W. Birrell. 2018. Proteomics of Anopheles Vectors of Malaria. Trends Parasitol. 34 (11): 961-981
  • Demonstration: Establishment of a model system of chikungunya transmission between mammals and mosquitoes; now used for chikungunya vaccine development. Hugo, L. E.†, Prow, N. A.†, Tang, B., Devine, G. & Suhrbier, A. 2016. Chikungunya virus transmission between Aedes albopictus and laboratory mice. Parasit Vectors 9(1):555 † Equal contribution
  • Discovery: Identification that a strain of Wolbachia bacteria released in a major intervention against dengue virus is susceptible to heat stress. Ulrich, J. N., Beier, J. C., Devine, G. J. & Hugo, L. E. 2016. Heat sensitivity of wMel Wolbachia during Aedes aegypti development. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 10, e0004873
  • Discovery: Contributed to the groundbreaking discovery that infection of mosquitoes with insect-specific Wolbachia bacteria inhibit subsequent  infection of the mosquitoes with human pathogens. Moreira, L. A., Iturbe-Ormaetxe, I., Jeffery, J. A., Lu, G., Pyke, A. T., Hedges, L. M., Rocha, B. C., Hall-Mendelin, S., Day, A., Riegler, M., Hugo, L. E., Johnson, K. N., Kay, B. H., McGraw, E. A., van den Hurk, A. F, Ryan, P. A., and S. L. O’Neill. 2009. A Wolbachia symbiont in Aedes aegypti limits infection with dengue, Chikungunya, and Plasmodium. Cell 139: 1268-1278.
  • Discovery: Identification of mosquito proteins associated with ageing in a search for new ageing biomarkers. Hugo L. E., Monkman, J, Dave, K. A., Wockner, L. F., Birrell, G. W., Norris, E. L., Kienzle, V. J., Sikulu, M. T., Ryan, P. A., Gorman, J. J. & Kay, B. H. 2013. Proteomic biomarkers for ageing the mosquito Aedes aegypti to determine risk of pathogen transmission. PLoS One 8: e58656.
  • Discovery: Determination of the natural survivorship patterns of a population of the dengue mosquito Aedes aegypti in a dengue-endemic region of Vietnam. Hugo, L. E., Jeffery, J. A. Trewin, B. J. Wockner, L. F., Nguyen, L. T., Nguyen, H. L., Nghia, L. T., Hine, E., Ryan, P. A. and B. H. Kay. 2014. Adult survivorship of the dengue mosquito Aedes aegypti varies seasonally in central Vietnam. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. 8(2):e2669.
  • Demonstration. Development of a novel assay for predicting mosquito age based on the expression patterns of mosquito genes. Used to determine mosquito population survival, an important parameter in mosquito-borne disease epidemiology.   Cook, P. E., Hugo, L. E., Iturbe-Ormaetxe, I., Williams, C. R., Chenoweth, S. F., Ritchie, S. A., Ryan, P. A., Kay, B. H., Blows, M. W., and S. L. O’Neill. 2006. The use of transcriptional profiles to predict adult mosquito age under field conditions. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 103: 18060-18065



2019–present: Member, Global Virus Network

2016–present: Member, Higher Degrees Committee, QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute

2013–present: Member, Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre

2000-present: Member, Mosquito Control Association of Australia

2000–present:  Member, Queensland Entomological Society



2020:  Travel award, Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre

2016: Completion, Association of Biosafety for Australia and New Zealand (ABSANZ) workshop / CSIRO Australian Animal Health Laboratories PC3 course.

2013-2016: Perpetual JT Wilson Fellowship, Perpetual Foundation / QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute

2005-2007: Australian Postdoctoral Fellowship Industry, Australian Research Council



2005–2008: Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland

2000–2004: PhD (Tropical Public Health), School of Population Health, University of Queensland

1997– 997: BSc (Hons) 1, Griffith University

1994-1996: Bachelor of Science (Applied Biology), Griffith University