Helena studied for her BSc in Virology at University of Warwick followed by a DPhil in Molecular Virology at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford. After completing her studies, Helena joined The Pirbright Institute as a post-doctoral researcher to study molecular virus-host interactions of the avian coronavirus, infectious bronchitis virus (IBV). She then became an independent Institute Fellow and in December 2019 was appointed as Group Leader of the Nidovirus-cell interactions group. Helena has studied the involvement of cellular autophagy (destruction of cellular components) in virus replication in both avian and mammalian cells, producing the first available reagents to study autophagy signalling in an avian system.
In addition, Helena characterised how IBV modifies cellular membranes to create structures required for assembly of viral replication transcription complexes (a step that is critical for viral replication). Using electron tomography to obtain 3D images, she identified novel structures not previously identified in coronavirus infected cells. More recently, Helena's group has begun to study additional coronaviruses such as porcine deltacoronavirus focussing on identification on conserved interactions between all coronaviruses and their host cells. Her group continues to study how coronaviruses manipulate cell membranes and induce structures for virus replication. Helena's group has also begun to research coronavirus interaction with other cellular pathways including translation and stress signalling, signalling using the molecule interferon and protein complexes involved in budding (ESCRT).
In addition to her research, Helena plays a role in student supervision and has supervised undergraduate and PhD students.