Background: In the past decade spherical and rod-like viruses have been used for the design and synthesis of new kind of nanomaterials with unique chemical positioning, shape, and dimensions in the nanosize regime. Wild type and genetic engineered viruses have served as excellent templates and scaffolds for the synthesis of hybrid materials with unique properties imparted by the incorporation of biological and organic moieties and inorganic nanoparticles. Although great advances have been accomplished, still there is a broad interest in developing reaction conditions suitable for biological templates while not limiting the material property of the product.Results: We demonstrate the controlled synthesis of copper nanorods and nanowires by electroless deposition of Cu on three types of Pd-activated rod-like viruses. Our aqueous solution-based method is scalable and versatile for biotemplating, resulting in Cu-nanorods 24-46 nm in diameter as measured by transmission electron microscopy. Cu 2+ was chemically reduced onto Pd activated tobacco mosaic virus, fd and M13 bacteriophages to produce a complete and uniform Cu coverage. The Cu coating was a combination of Cu 0 and Cu 2O as determined by X- ray photoelectron spectroscopy analysis. A capping agent, synthesized in house, was used to disperse Cu-nanorods in aqueous and organic solvents. Likewise, reactions were developed to produce Cu-nanowires by metallization of polyaniline-coated tobacco mosaic virus.Conclusions: Synthesis conditions described in the current work are scalable and amenable for biological templates. The synthesized structures preserve the dimensions and shape of the rod-like viruses utilized during the study. The current work opens the possibility of generating a variety of nanorods and nanowires of different lengths ranging from 300 nm to micron sizes. Such biological-based materials may find ample use in nanoelectronics, sensing, and cancer therapy. © 2012 Zhou et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.