Jonathan O. Rayner, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Microbiology and Immunology
Director, Laboratory of Infectious Diseases
University of South Alabama
SECVBD Partner

Dr. Jonathan Rayner is an Associate Professor in Microbiology and Immunology, the Director of the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases at the University of South Alabama, and a partner with the Southeastern Center of Excellence in Vector-Borne Diseases. Dr. Rayner completed his Bachelor of Science at University of Delaware then went on to complete a PhD at Colorado State University in the Arthropod-Borne Infectious Diseases lab, studying ways to interrupt the transmission of dengue and yellow fever viruses in mosquitoes. After his doctoral work, he completed two post-doctoral fellowships. Dr. Rayner’s first post-doctoral fellowship was with the American Society for Microbiology and National Center for Infectious Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researching dengue. His second post-doctoral fellowship was with the National Research Council at the United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases researching the alphavirus replicon system. This led to a position as a Research Scientist and Program Manager at AlphaVax, Inc. where he aided in the optimization of the company’s proprietary vaccine platform and developed several vaccines targeting infectious disease and cancer. 

Dr. Rayner continued in the research and development field and joined MRIGlobal as a Principal Scientist and Program Manager, where his research focused on biological threat assessment including alphaviruses and flaviviruses, and understanding the pathogenesis of Rift Valley Fever Virus. Dr. Rayner was recruited by Southern Research, where he became the Director of Infectious Disease Research Birmingham. His work in Birmingham focused on vaccine and drug development for pathogens such as influenza, anthrax, dengue and he was on the leading edge of research to establish the primate model and evaluate drugs and vaccines for Zika virus.


After almost 20 years in private industry Dr. Rayner joined the University of South Alabama to direct the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, a state-of-the-art research facility with BSL-2, BSL-3 and ABSL-3 spaces for work with high consequence pathogens. Dr. Rayner’s expertise allowed him to expand the university’s research programs beyond the traditional NIH grant funded programs. Upon arriving at the University of South Alabama Dr. Rayner heard of a case of eastern equine encephalitis in the county and started a dialogue to better understand the current status of mosquito surveillance and control in Alabama. Dr. Rayner works with the Mobile County Health Department to screen their mosquito pools for West Nile, Eastern equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, dengue, chikungunya, and zika viruses. Dr. Rayner has even established in vitro and in vivo models of chikungunya virus infection for preclinical assessment of broad spectrum antivirals.


Shortly after joining the University, Dr. Rayner was awarded a grant in collaboration with Dr. John McCreadie to study the ticks and tick-borne diseases of Alabama. Dr. McCreadie’s lab collects the ticks from the field, while Dr. Rayner’s lab focuses on testing the ticks for various pathogens using molecular methods. This collaborative effort is helping better understand the risk of ticks and tick-borne diseases in Alabama.

Since March, Dr. Rayner and his colleagues have shifted research focus to SARS-CoV-2. By having advanced facilities at University of South Alabama they are able to isolate samples from patients, set up antiviral efficacy assays, and test the effects of different treatments in vitro. Recently they had a paper published about this research: AR12 (OSU-03012) suppresses GRP78 expression and inhibits SARS-CoV-2 replication

Dr. Rayner’s industry experience allows him to help create and advance research projects on preclinical drug and vaccine development as well as preclinical efficacy trials. He also has vast experience in securing research support, achieving more than $600,000 in the three years since he joined the University of South Alabama.

Learn more about…
The Department of Microbiology & Immunology at the University of South Alabama

The Laboratory of Infectious Diseases at the University of South Alabama

Other recent publications by Dr. Rayner and his collaborators:
Smith, D.R., C.S. Schmaljohn, C. Badger, K. Ostrowski, X. Zeng, S.D. Grimes, J.O. Rayner “Comparative pathology study of Venezuelan, eastern and western equine encephalitis viruses in non-human primates.” Antiviral Research 182, 104875 (2020).

Weir, G.M., L.D. MacDonald, R. Rajagopalan, G.S. Sivko, M.W. Valderas, J. Rayner, B.J. Berger, L. Sammatur, and M.M. Stanford. “Single dose DPX-rPA, an enhanced-delivery anthrax vaccine formulation, protects against a lethal Bacillus anthracis spore inhalation challenge.” npj Vaccines 4(1), 6 (2019).

Rayner, J.O., R. Kalkeri, S. Goebel, Z. Cai, B. Green, S. Lin, B. Snyder, K. Hagelin, K.B. Walters, and F. Koide. “Comparative Pathogenesis of Asian and African-Lineage Zika Virus in Indian Rhesus Macaque’s and Development of a Non-Human Primate Model Suitable for the Evaluation of New Drugs and Vaccines.” Viruses 10(5), 229 (2018).