John T. Schiller, Ph.D.

John T. Schiller, Ph.D.
Deputy Chief
NIH Distinguished Investigator
Head, Neoplastic Disease Section

Dr. Schiller and his co-PI, Dr. Douglas Lowy, led the initial development and characterization of the human papillomavirus (HPV) prophylactic vaccines that ultimately became the commercial vaccines Cervarix and Gardasil. They currently study basic aspects of the papillomavirus life cycle, second-generation HPV vaccines, and HPV capsid-based vaccines against other infection agents and cancers. The lab is also developing cancer therapies based on the preferential binding of HPV capsids to tumor cells.

Areas of Expertise

1) papillomaviruses, 2) prophylactic vaccines, 3) therapeutic vaccines, 4) virus infection,
5) virus assembly, 6) serology

Contact Info

John T. Schiller, Ph.D.
Center for Cancer Research
National Cancer Institute
Building 37, Room 4112B
Bethesda, MD 20892
Ph: 240-760-7944

Papillomaviruses:  Basic Biology and Vaccine Development

Our research is primarily concerned with the elucidation of the molecular mechanisms of human papillomavirus (HPV) virion assembly and infection, development of vaccines and other agents to prevent and treat HPV infections and the neoplasia they induce, and the use of the insights obtained in these studies to develop treatments against other sexually transmitted infections and chronic diseases, including cancer.  We have used our technologies for the generation of papillomavirus virus-like particles (VLPs) and high titers of infectious papillomavirus pseudovirions (PsVs) that transduce encapsidated marker plasmids to facilitate our basic virologic and translational research efforts.  Ongoing projects include:

  • Elucidating the molecular mechanisms of HPV infection in cultured cells and epithelial tissues and determining how antibodies induced by HPV VLP vaccines prevent the process.
  • Determining the molecular mechanisms of HPV virion assembly and developing methods for generating high titer pseudovirus preparations in defined cell-free reactions for use in clinical trials.
  • Understanding the remarkable immunogenicity and efficacy of HPV VLP vaccines.
  • Developing therapeutic vaccines against HPV and Herpes simplex that would function by induction of tissue resident T cells after intravaginal vaccination.
  • Exploiting the unexpected tumor tropism of papillomavirus capsids to develop broadly applicable cancer therapies.
NIH Scientific Focus Areas:
Immunology, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Virology
View Dr. Schiller's PubMed Summary.

Selected Key Publications

  1. Cuburu N, Kim R, Guittard GC, Thompson CD, Day PM, Hamm DE, Pang YS, Graham BS, Lowy DR, Schiller JT
    Journal of Immunology. 10: 4049, 2019. [ Journal Article ]
  2. Cuburu N, Khan S, Thompson CD, Kim R, Vellinga J, Zahn R, Lowy DR, Scheper G, Schiller JT
    Int J Cancer. 142/7: 1467-1479, 2018. [ Journal Article ]
  3. Schiller J, Lowy D
    Vaccine. 36/32 Part A: 4768-4773, 2018. [ Journal Article ]
  4. Kines RC, Varsavsky I, Choudhary S, Bhattacharya D, Spring S, McLaughlin R, Kang SJ, Grossniklaus HE, Vavvas D, Monks S, MacDougall JR, de los Pinos E, Schiller JT
    Molecular Cancer Therapeutics. 17/2: 565-574, 2018. [ Journal Article ]
  5. Cerqueira C, Thompson CD, Day PM, Pang YS, Lowy DR, Schiller JT
    Molecular Therapy. 5: 165-179, 2017. [ Journal Article ]

Dr. Schiller graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.S. in molecular biology in 1975. In 1982, he received a Ph.D. from the Department of Microbiology of the University of Washington in Seattle, then joined the Laboratory of Cellular Oncology as a National Research Service Award postdoctoral fellow in 1983. Dr. Schiller became a senior staff fellow in the Laboratory of Cellular Oncology in 1986 and a senior investigator in 1992. He became chief of the Neoplastic Disease Section of the lab in 1998, deputy lab chief in 2000 and designated as an NIH Distinguished Investigator in 2016.  Dr. Schiller has received numerous awards for his contributions to papillomavirus virus molecular biology and HPV vaccine development, including the 2007 Service to America Medal – Federal Employee of the Year, the 2011 Albert Sabin Gold Medal Award, the 2011 AACR-American Cancer Society Award for Research Excellence in Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention, the 2014 National Medal of Technology and Innovation, and the 2017 American Society for Microbiology’s Joseph Public Health Award.

Name Position
Alexander Bell B.S. Postbaccalaureate Fellow
Lukas Bialkowski Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow (Visiting)
Nicolas Çuburu, Ph.D. Staff Scientist
Patricia M. Day, Ph.D. Associate Scientist
Nathan Fons Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow (CRTA)
Rhonda C. Kines Special Volunteer
Yuk-Ying (Susana) Pang Ph.D. Research Biologist
Cynthia D. Thompson M.S. Research Biologist