Innovating research, policy and education in synthetic and systems biology

Beauty of viruses celebrated in interactive documentary

Friday 30th June saw the world premiere of a documentary that celebrates the shapes of some of the world’s most deadly pathogens.

Viruses, in spite of the pain they cause us, are some of the most beautiful creatures in the world, covered in varied and intricate patterns - the patterns on Zika virus actually have connections to medieval Islamic art. The documentary entitled Virus, the Beauty of the Beast is an interactive documentary, three years in the making, about the patterns we find in the shapes of viruses, and how understanding them can help us fight those viruses.

Created by Hamish Todd, a BBSRC Eastbio PhD student based in the lab of Dr Andrew Goryachev in the Centre for Synthetic and Systems Biology, the documentary uses animation and simulation to explore how the patterns in the shape of viruses tell us about how the function. It can also inform us about the human designs that they appear in such as buildings, origami and alloys.

'When asked about his inspiration Hamish said 'Mathematics is beautiful to me, and mathematical biology is exactly twice as beautiful; but so many people are closed off from being able to examine and contemplate the things that we scientists are privileged to spend all day with. With this documentary I wanted to offer that opportunity to as many people as possible'

The documentary has a particular focus on HIV, Zika virus, and Hepatitis. You can watch it all online at