Mary  Kearney, Ph.D.

Mary F. Kearney, Ph.D.

  • Center for Cancer Research
  • National Cancer Institute


Dr. Kearney conducts research on the emergence of HIV drug resistance, the persistence of HIV during antiretroviral treatment (ART), and the sources of rebound viremia after stopping ART.  Her studies have demonstrated that a diverse population of HIV-infected cells persist during ART, that some infected cells proliferate despite ART, and that residual viremia during ART can result from viral expression from these cells.  Dr. Kearney heads the Translational Research Section, which aims to understand the genetics, evolution, and persistence of HIV and other RNA viruses and to design new approaches toward targeting and killing infected cells.  Currently, she also serves as a member of the NIH Women Scientists Advisors (WSA) Executive Committee and a member of the CCR WSA Committee; these groups promote career development and address issues affecting women scientists.  Dr. Kearney was appointed as HIV DRP Deputy Director of Translational/Clinical Research in 2021, and CCR Deputy Director in 2023.

Areas of Expertise

Drug Resistance
Viral Persistence
HIV Residual Viremia
Viral Evolution


Selected Key Publications

Early emergence and long-term persistence of HIV-infected T-cell clones in children

Bale MJ, Katusiime MG, Wells D, Wu X, Spindler J, Halvas EK, Cyktor JC, Wiegand A, Shao W, Cotton MF, Hughes SH, Mellors JW, Coffin JM, Van Zyl GU, Kearney MF
mBio. 12: e00568-21, 2021. [ Journal Article ]

Combined HIV-1 sequence and integration site analysis informs viral dynamics and allows reconstruction of replicating viral ancestors

Patro SC, Brandt LD, Bale MJ, Halvas EK, Joseph KW, Shao W, Wu X, Guo S, Murrell B, Wiegand A, Spindler J, Raley C, Hautman C, Sobolewski M, Fennessey CM, Hu WS, Luke B, Hasson JM, Niyongabo A, Capoferri AA, Keele BF, Milush J, Hoh R, Deeks SG, Maldarelli F, Hughes SH, Coffin JM, Rausch JW, Mellors JW, Kearney MF
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 116: 25891-25899, 2019. [ Journal Article ]

HIV infected T cells can proliferate in vivo without inducing expression of the integrated provirus

Musick A, Spindler J, Boritz E, Pérez L, Crespo-Vélez D, Patro SC, Sobolewski MD, Bale MJ, Reid C, Keele BF, Capoferri A, Shao W, Wiegand A, Simonetti FR, Mellors JW, Hughes SH, Coffin JM, Maldarelli F, Kearney MF
Front Microbiol. 10: 2204, 2019. [ Journal Article ]

HIV-1 in lymph nodes is maintained by cellular proliferation during antiretroviral therapy

McManus WR, Bale MJ, Spindler J, Wiegand A, Musick A, Patro SC, Sobolewski MD, Musick VK, Anderson EM, Cyktor JC, Halvas EK, Shao W, Wells D, Wu X, Keele BF, Milush JM, Hoh R, Mellors JW, Hughes SH, Deeks SG, Coffin JM, Kearney MF
J. Clin. Invest. 130: 126714, 2019. [ Journal Article ]

Single-cell analysis of HIV-1 transcriptional activity reveals expression of proviruses in expanded clones during ART

Wiegand A, Spindler J, Hong FF, Shao W, Cyktor JC, Cillo AR, Halvas EK, Coffin JM, Mellors JW, Kearney MF
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 114: E3659-E3668, 2017. [ Journal Article ]

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Mary Kearney Received 2021 NIH Director's Award

Mary Kearney received a 2021 NIH Director's Award with other members of the CCR Women Scientists Advisors (WSAs) for "demonstrating extraordinary initiative, leadership, and creativity to assess and respond to career development and workplace issues in the wake of the pandemic."

Mary Kearney Appointed as a Deputy Director in HIV Dynamics and Replication Program

In October 2021, Mary Kearney was appointed as HIV DRP Deputy Director of Translational/Clinical Research.

Mary Kearney Selected to Receive NCI Director's Award

Mary Kearney has been nominated by CCR Director Tom Misteli and selected to receive an individual 2021 NCI Director's Award for Workplace Wellness in recognition of her initiative and accomplishments to improve workplace wellness through exemplary leadership and mentoring.

NIH Fellows Awards for Research Excellence

Jennifer Groebner won a 2022 NIH Fellows Award for Research Excellence (FARE) for travel to attend and present her work at a scientific meeting in the U.S.  This award, which acknowledges outstanding scientific research performed by intramural postdoctoral fellows, is sponsored by the NIH Fellows Committee, Scientific Directors, and Office of Intramural Training and Education and is funded by the Scientific Directors.  FARE awards are based on scientific merit, originality, experimental design, and overall quality/presentation of the abstracts. 

New Investigator Scholarships, Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections

Jennifer Groebner and Adam Capoferri were awarded New Investigator Scholarships to attend and present Science Spotlights™ talks at the 2021 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI).  Previous CROI scholarship awardees include Sean Patro and Jenna Hasson in 2020, Mary Grace Katusiime in 2019, Andrew Musick in 2017 and 2018, and Chad Coomer in 2014.

2019 NIH Director's Award

Mary Kearney received a 2019 NIH Director's Award as a member of the NIH Women Scientists Advisors (WSA) Executive Committee.  Nominated by the NIH Office of the Director, the Executive Committee members received this team award for leadership of the WSA in promoting recruitment, retention, and recognition of women scientists and fair treatment with respect to salary and work environment.

2018 Leidos Outstanding Achievement Award

Wei Shao received a Leidos Outstanding Achievement Award in 2018 for developing the Retrovirus Integration Database ( and the Proviral Sequence Database (

2015 NCI Director's Award

NCI HIV Integration Sites Analysis (ISA) Team 2015

    Members of the NCI HIV Integration Sites Analysis (ISA) team received a group award at the NCI Director's Award ceremony in November 2015 "for discoveries on HIV survival during antiretroviral therapy, revealing the importance of integration site and clonal expansion."  The ISA group award recipients included Stephen Hughes, Andrea Ferris, Shawn Hill, Mary Kearney, Frank Maldarelli, Wei Shao, and Jonathan Spindler (HIV DRP); Francesco Simonetti (University of Milan); John Coffin (Tufts University); John Mellors (University of Pittsburgh); and David Wells, Ling Su, and Xiaolin Wu (Leidos Biomedical Research, Inc.).

    XMRV Working Group Received NIH Director's Award

    NIH Intramural Research Program XMRV Working Group

    Presentations at the 2009 Cold Spring Harbor Retroviruses Meeting in May 2009 suggested that xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV), a novel gammaretrovirus with a potential link to prostate cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome, might be present in ~3% of the U.S. population, raising both public health issues and concern for contamination of the nation's blood supply.  In response, the Intramural Research Program (IRP) of the National Cancer Institute immediately formed a multidisciplinary XMRV Working Group and charged the group with developing, implementing, and making available diagnostic reagents for rapid, accurate, and reliable detection of XMRV nucleic acids, antigens, and infectious virus.  The group developed an action plan, and within three months, the SAIC Protein Expression Laboratory reported construction of 40 recombinant clones expressing all XMRV antigens and their subsequent purification for use as immunological reagents in December 2009.  Importantly, these reagents were also made available (through the NIH AIDS Reagent Program) to the extramural community to accelerate XMRV research and allow sharing of a common set of reagents.  A parallel effort in the HIV Dynamics and Replication Program resulted in establishing an assay to quantify XMRV DNA (from tissue) and RNA (from plasma) in November and December 2009, respectively.  Since ultrasensitive XMRV nucleic acid detection methods were not available, this required in-house development and standardization, using the existing manpower and financial resources of the HIV DRP.  In response to the need for "authentic" viral antigens for the development and standardization of immunological reagents by the Viral Technology Laboratory, the large-scale virus culture facilities of the SAIC AIDS and Cancer Virus Program were recruited for XMRV production.  Finally, researchers of the HIV DRP developed the DERSE indicator cell line for detection of infectious XMRV.  In contrast to traditional virological methods, this novel assay reduced the time needed to detect low levels of replicating XMRV in cell culture from months to a matter of weeks.

    Subsequent studies have demonstrated that XMRV does not pose a threat to public health.  Despite this, events between October 2009 and October 2010 highlighted the ability of dedicated scientists of the IRP to respond very quickly to a potential public health crisis by assembling a multidisciplinary team with a single goal of rapidly preparing, standardizing, and making available reagents for diagnostic virology.  In every instance, reagents were prepared with existing manpower and resources, and without a serious interruption in the normal work flow or productivity of each group involved.  Their non-XMRV work continued unimpeded.  The success of this effort relied on close cooperation between all groups to establish and meet important deadlines.  In addition to their individual contributions, the XMRV Working Group made reagents and technologies available to the general scientific community, and performed additional diagnostic analysis of samples supplied by federal, intramural, and extramural laboratories.  In February 2012, the external XMRV Working Group (the Blood XMRV Scientific Research Working Group) received a Special Recognition Award from the Department of Health and Human Services, recognizing their exemplary team performance for "evaluating XMRV, a potential threat to the blood supply."  In July 2012, members of the IRP XMRV Working Group were similarly recognized for their outstanding work by receiving the NIH Director's Award.

    The IRP XMRV Working Group included:

    Stuart Le Grice, HIV DRP
    Alan Rein, HIV DRP
    Vineet KewalRamani, HIV DRP
    Mary Kearney, HIV DRP
    James Hartley, Protein Expression Laboratory, SAIC-Frederick
    Rachel Bagni, Viral Technology Laboratory, SAIC-Frederick
    Jeffrey Lifson, AIDS and Cancer Virus Program, SAIC-Frederick

    Award for Excellence in Graduate Research, Catholic University of America

    Mary Kearney was awarded The Benedict T. DeCicco Award for Excellence in Graduate Research in 2008 by the Biology Faculty of the Catholic University of America.


      Elizabeth Anderson, Ph.D.
      Predoctoral Fellow
      Michael Bale, M.S.
      Postbaccalaureate Fellow
      Neeru Bhardwaj, Ph.D.
      Special Volunteer
      Cristina Ceriani, Ph.D.
      Special Volunteer
      Charles Coomer, M.Sc.
      Summer Student
      Monica Gouzoulis, B.S.
      Summer Student
      Jennifer Groebner, Ph.D.
      Postdoctoral Fellow
      Nicholas Johnson
      Summer Student
      Lina Josefsson, Ph.D.
      Special Volunteer
      William McManus, M.S.
      Postbaccalaureate Fellow
      Helene Mens, M.D., Ph.D.
      Guest Researcher
      Victoria Musick, B.S.
      Summer Student
      Aurelie Niyongabo, M.S.
      Postbaccalaureate Fellow
      Alex Scheltema
      Summer Student
      Tyler Snoots, B.S.
      Summer Student
      Anuradha Sreedhara
      Summer Student
      Sloane Yu, M.D., M.B.A.
      Postbaccalaureate Fellow