Justen Russell, PhD

Science communications expert, outcomes-focused research scientist, and author with international and cross-cultural experience. Professional history includes management of multidisciplinary research projects, scientific popularization, as well as international and interdisciplinary collaborations with academic, corporate and government stakeholders.



Paris, France


English & French



Work Experience

Junior Science Officer – Communications

European Science Foundation | June 2020-November 2020

  • Developed integrated communications strategy combining traditional and social media outreach for clients targeting a European demographic
  • Designed and coded tools for WordPress websites
  • Managed telecommunications at virtual scientific conference with 1000+ participants


Synthetic Biologist                                        

Institut Pasteur | June 2018-April 2020

  • Developed novel phagemid model in Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron to enable exploration of diversity generating retroelements in a BSL-1 organism resulting in a patent application
  • Spearheaded a collaborative project with biotech start-up Eligo Bioscience to expand the host range of CRISPR/Cas antimicrobials
  • Co-authored a chapter for a CRISPR-Cas textbook and article preview for Cell Host and Microbe
  • Supervised two masters students



University of Toronto | September 2012-June 2018

  • Spearheaded a multi-institution, interdisciplinary investigation to support vaccine development aims resulting in a high impact scientific publication
  • Engineered a cytomegalovirus strain isolated from macaque monkeys to construct a candidate vaccine against HIV/SIV leading to a forthcoming vaccine trial in macaque monkeys and pending publication
  • Investigated cytomegalovirus host-virus co-evolution using comparative genomics leading to improved understanding of herpesvirus evolution and a high-impact publication on CMV phylogenetics
  • Provided international support for clinical trials in Kenya resulting in multiple publications
  • Trained incoming students and staff

Communications Director

Immunology Graduate Students Association | Sept 2014-Aug 2015

  • Designed and managed student association website
  • Oversaw communication with student body, and spearheaded fundraising projects



Defence Research and Development Canada | May-Sept 2010 & 2011

  • Supported military research objectives and training in counterterrorism and defence related microbiology projects
  • Prepared technical documentation and evaluated protocols for non-scientific military staff resulting in two field protocols
  • Isolated and identified environmental bacterial and viral samples to monitor protected ecosystems



University of Calgary | September 2010–May 2012

  • Designed a sindbis virus-based method to genetically modify the bacterial pathogen Vibrio parahaemolyticus leading to a novel laboratory approach for investigating protein effectors of pathogenesis
  • Optimized confocal microscopy protocol for investigating phosphatidylinositol phosphate signalling and cell cytoskeleton rearrangement in intestinal cells during Vibrio parahaemolyticus infection


Selected Publications:

  • Russell J. and Bikard D. 2022 (In Press). CRISPR-Based Antimicrobials. Chapter 14 in CRISPR: Biology and Applications, First Edition. Edited by Barrangou R., Sontheimer E., and Marraffini L. American Society for Microbiology.
  • Russell J. You will remember this. Nature 574:144. 10.1038/d41586-019-02948-z
  • Russell J. and Bikard D. 2019. Learning from Antibodies: Phage Host-Range Engineering. Cell Host and Microbe 26(4):445-446. 10.1016/j.chom.2019.09.010
  • Russell J. N. H., Marsh A. K., Willer D. O., Ambagala A. P., Dzamba M., Chan J. K., Pilon R., Fournier J. Brudno M., Antony J. M., Sandstrom P., Evans B. J. and MacDonald K. S. 2016. A novel strain of cynomolgus macaque cytomegalovirus: implications for host-virus co-evolution. BMC Genomics 17(1). 10.1186/s12864-016-2588-3
  • Marsh A. K., Ambagala A. P., Perciani C. T., Russell J. N. H., Chan J. K., Janes M., Antony J. M., Pilon R., Sandstrom P., Willer D. O. and MacDonald K. S. Examining the species-specificity of rhesus macaque cytomegalovirus (RhCMV) in cynomolgus macaques. PLoS One 10:e0121339. 10.1371/journal.pone.0121339


See more


Technical Skills


Project Management, Co-ordination & Logistics, Financial Management, Literature Review, Data Analysis, Experimental Design, Grant & Proposal Evaluation


Synthetic Biology, Virology, Cellular/Molecular Biology, Immunology, Exobiology & Bioastronautics, 


Public Speaking, Scientific Communication, Technical Writing, Literary Writing, Event Co-ordination, Website Design & Management, Graphic Design


MS Office, HTML/CSS, Photoshop, Illustrator, Inkscape, Social Media, Website Management


Bash, C#, C/C++, Python, R, Mathematica


Scientific Presentations

Invited Presentations

  • Russell, J. N. H. The Immune Basis for Chickenpox and Zoster Vaccine Protection: Can We Apply This to an HIV Vaccine? May 12, 2016 at Vaccines of the Future Start Here in Toronto, Canada.

Sessions Chaired

  • Russell, J. N. H. (Session Chair). Is A Vaccine Still 10 years away? November 26, 2014 at Ontario HIV treatment Network (OHTN) Back to Basics in Toronto, Canada.

Conference Presentations

  • Russell J. N. H. The Diversity Generating Retroelement (DGR) of a Bacteroides bacteriophage. April 29, 2020 at Microbiology Departmental Day in Paris, France
  • Russell J. N. H. Developing molecular tools from the diversity generating retroelement (DGR) of a Bacteroides infecting bacteriophage. January 24, 2020 at WIP in Paris, France
  • Russell J. N. H., Marsh A. K., Willer D. O., Ambagala A. P. N., Richmond M. I. E., Csordas F. C. L., Chan J. K., Pilon R., Sandstrom P. and MacDonald K. S. Expression of Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) Antigens by Bacterial Artificial Chromosome (BAC)-Derived Infectious Cynomolgus Macaque CMV (CyCMV). May 1, 2017 at CMV 2017 in Noordwijkerhout, The Netherlands.
  • Russell J. N. H., Marsh A. K., Willer D. O., Ambagala A. P., Richmond M. I. E., Csordas F. C. L., Antony J. M. and MacDonald K. S. Comparison of SIV Transgene Expression by Cynomolgus Macaque Cytomegalovirus (CyCMV) and Varicella-Zoster Virus (VZV). April 7, 2017 at 26th Annual Canadian Conference on HIV/AIDS Research in Montreal, Canada.
  • Russell J. N. H., Marsh A. K., Willer D.O., Ambagala A.P.N., Csordas F.C.L., Chan J.K., Pilon R., Antony J.M., Sandstrom P. and MacDonald K.S. Expression of a SIVmac239 Gag-Pol Fusion Protein by Cynomolgus Macaque Cytomegalovirus for use in a Simian Immunodeficiency Virus – Cynomolgus Macaque Vaccine Challenge Model. May 13, 2016 at 25th Annual Canadian Conference on HIV/AIDS Research in Winnipeg, Canada.
  • Russell J. N. H., Marsh A. K., Willer D.O., Ambagala A. P. N., Dzamba M., Chan J. K., Pilon R., Fournier J., Brudno. M., Antony J. M., Sandstrom P., Evans B. J. and MacDonald K. S. Macaques and Their Passengers: Exploring the Divergence and Adaptation of the Ubiquitous Viral Pathogen CMV in Fascicularis Macaques. June 15, 2015 at Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Research Days 2015 in Toronto, Canada.
  • Russell J. N. H. Is A Vaccine still 10 years away? November 26, 2014 at the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN) Back to Basics Conference in Toronto, Canada.
  • Russell J. N. H., Marsh, A. K., Willer, D.O., Ambagala, A. P. N., Dzamba, M., Chan, J. K., Pilon, R., Fournier, J., Brudno. M., Sandstrom, P. and MacDonald K. S. Development of Cynomolgus Macaque Cytomegalovirus as a Novel SIV Vaccine Vector. March 10, 2014 at Keystone Symposia HIV Vaccines: Adaptive Immunity and Beyond in Banff, Canada.
  • Russell, J. N. H. The Development of Novel HIV Vaccine Vectors: A Cynomolgus Macaque Cytomegalovirus-based Approach. November 18, 2013 at Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN) Conference in Toronto, Canada.


TeachinG Experience

Guest Lecturer, Ermitage International School, Maison-Lafitte | 2019- Present     

Project Supervisor, Institut Pasteur | 2019- 2020

Project Supervisor, University of Manitoba | 2017-2018

 Project Lead, University of Toronto | 2015-2016

Undergraduate Project Supervisor, MacDonald Laboratory | 2015

Teaching Assistant, University of Toronto | 2013-2015