Dr Joana Viana PhD

Joana Viana

Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research
UKRI Rutherford Fund Fellow

Contact details

Room 340, IBR Tower, Level 3
College of Medical and Dental Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Joana’s research focusses on investigating the epigenomic, transcriptomic and regulatory changes that occur in cell differentiation during vertebrate development, in particular during neurodevelopment. Epigenetic and gene expression changes during development play crucial roles in determining cell fate. Insults during this time can cause abnormalities in these mechanisms and lead to disorders later in life. Determining the genomic regions that undergo changes during early development is essential to understand the molecular mechanisms involved in development and multiple developmental disorders. In her research she combines cutting-edge sequencing methodologies and bioinformatics analyses to profile the genomic regulatory landscape of vertebrate development using zebrafish as a model. 

Joana is part of the Centre for Systems, Modelling and Quantitative Biomedicine


  • 2013 – 2016        PhD in Epigenetics, University of Exeter, UK
  • 2011 – 2012        MSc in Neuroscience, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London         
  • 2008 – 2011        BSc in Cell and Molecular Biology. Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal


After completion of a Bachelor’s degree in Cell and Molecular Biology from Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal, in 2011 and a Master’s degree in Neuroscience from King’s College London, UK, in 2012, Joana was awarded a 3 year scholarship by the University of Exeter to undertake a PhD in Epigenetics. The focus of her PhD was to study regulatory genomic changes associated with schizophrenia and in response to antipsychotic medications. The research developed this time resulted in several peer-reviewed publications in high impact journals.

Joana’s postdoctoral work focused on exploring the epigenomic mechanisms underlying mental health as part of the European Union-funded MATRICS project. Subsequently. Currently, Joana is a Medical Research Council-funded Rutherford Fund Fellow. Her fellowship focuses in investigating the genomic regulation of vertebrate development using zebrafish embryos as a model.


I use a number of molecular biology and bioinformatics techniques to study the genomic regulation during neurodevelopment and in the context of neuropsychiatric disorders. 

Research Groups and Centres

Centre for Systems Modelling & Quantitative Biomedicine


Viana J, Wildman N, Hannon E, Farbos A, O’Neill P, Moore K, van Aerle R, Paull G, Santos EM, Mill J. NPJ Schizophr. (2020) Clozapine-induced transcriptional changes in the zebrafish brain. 6(1):3.

Murph T, Policicchio S, Washer S, Viana J, Iatrou A, Burrage J, Hannon E, Turecki G, Kaminsky Z, Mill J, Dempster E. Transl Psychiatry.  (In Press) Genome-wide DNA methylation meta-analysis in the brains of suicide completers.

Laing LV, Viana J, Dempster EL, Uren Webster TM, van Aerle R, Mill J, Santos EM. (2018) Sex-specific transcription and DNA methylation profiles of reproductive and epigenetic associated genes in the gonads and livers of breeding zebrafish. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology 22: 16-25.

Viana J, Hannon E, Dempster E, Pidsley R, Macdonald R, Knox O, Spiers H, Troakes C, Al-Saraj S, Turecki G, Schalkwyk LC and Mill J. (2017) Schizophrenia-associated methylomic variation: molecular signatures of disease and polygenic risk burden across multiple brain regions. Human Molecular Genetics 26 (1): 210-225.

Hannon E, Dempster E, Viana J, Burrage J, Smith AR, Macdonald R, St Clair D, Mustard C, Breen G, Therman S, Kaprio J, Toulopoulou T, Hulshoff Pol HE, Bohlken MM, Kahn RS, Nenadic I, Hultman CM, Murray RM, Collier DA, Bass N, Gurling H, McQuillin A, Schalkwyk L, Mill J. (2016) An integrated genetic-epigenetic analysis of schizophrenia: evidence for co-localization of genetic associations and differential DNA methylation. Genome Biology 17(1):176.

Kumsta R*, Marzi S*, Viana J, Rutter M, Sonuga-Barke R and Mill J. (2016) Severe psychosocial deprivation in early childhood is associated with hypermethylation across a region of the CYP2E1 gene. Translational Psychiatry 6(6):e830.

Laing LV, Viana J, Dempster E, Trznadel M, Trunkfield L, Uren Webster TM, van Aerle R, Paull GC, Wilson R, Mill J and Santos EM. (2016) Bisphenol A causes reproductive toxicity and changes in epigenetic signalling pathways in mature zebrafish. Epigenetics 11(7):526-38.

Hannon E, Spiers H, Viana J, Pidsley R, Burrage J, Murphy T, Troakes C, Turecki G, O’Donovan MC, Schalkwyk L, Bray N, Mill J. (2016) Methylation QTLs in the developing brain and their enrichment in schizophrenia risk loci. Nature Neuroscience 19:48–54.

Fisher HL*, Murphy TM*, Arseneault L, Caspi A, Moffitt TE, Viana J, Hannon E, Pidsley R, Burrage J, Dempster EL, Wong CC, Pariante CM, and Mill J. (2015) Methylomic Analysis of Monozygotic Twins Discordant for Childhood Psychotic Symptoms. Epigenetics 10(11):1014-23.

Pidsley R, Viana J, Hannon E, Spiers H, Troakes C, Al-Sarraj S, Mechawar N, Turecki G, Schalkwyk L, Bray N, Mill J. (2014) Methylomic profiling of human brain tissue supports a neurodevelopmental origin for schizophrenia. Genome Biology 15(10):483.

Viana J*, Pidsley R*, Troakes C, Spiers H, Wong CCY, Al-Sarraj S, Craig I, Schalkwyk L, Mill J. (2014) Epigenomic and Transcriptomic Signatures of a Klinefelter's Syndrome (47,XXY) Karyotype in the Brain. Epigenetics 9(4):587-99.

Dempster E, Viana J, Pidsley R, Mill J. (2013) Epigenetic studies of schizophrenia: progress, predicaments and promises for the future. Schizophrenia Bulletin 39(1):11-16.

Pidsley R, Fernandes C, Viana J, Paya-Cano JL, Liu L, Smith R, Schalkwyk LC*, Mill J*. (2012) DNA methylation at the Igf2/H19 imprinting control region is associated with cerebellum mass in outbred mice. Molecular brain 5:42.

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