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Immunity and Infection

Modulating immune responses for patient benefit

Theme leadPaul Klenerman

Our vision

  1. To take an innovative approach to translational medicine, by integrating multidisciplinary basic science programme with clinical research and clinical care to produce ‘lab bench-to-patient-bedside’ benefits.
  2. To tackle key issues locally, nationally and globally in the management of emerging infections and antimocrobial resistance

The theme is led by Professor Paul Klenerman.

Our mission (1)

To build on Oxford’s proven capacity in basic and clinical science, clinical research and pathways to clinical care, and to apply a multidisciplinary approach that will enable innovations in the diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of immune-mediated diseases. Our aim is to move from the accepted management of these debilitating conditions to the cures that patients seek. Our approach will include:

  • A state-of-the-art immune phenotyping platform to aid diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of disease
  • Identifying, developing and testing novel therapeutic targets for treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases
  • Redefining disease based on molecular pathogenesis, and using this method on clinically and genetically defined patient cohorts for stratified medicine approaches
  • Harnessing the immune response to accelerate the development of novel vaccines for infectious disease and anti-tumour immunity
  • Applying novel science-led interdisciplinary and multi-professional approach to foster innovations in clinical care pathways used for inflammatory diseases

During 2017/2018 Work within this theme integrates cutting edge multi-disciplinary basic science with first rate clinical research. The close physical and intellectual collaboration between clinical and academic researchers provides an innovative, fast-paced, evolving approach to translational medicine that results in significant advances in patient treatment and care. Over the past year there has been a major focus on developing the Oxford Immunology Network, a Medical Sciences Division initiative to support immunology and infection researchers. The Immunology Network is overseen by a large, cross-Department committee and is managed by Georgina Kerr. (see in Appendix 1) It has the following strategic objectives: a) Maintain world-class immunology, infection and inflammation research at Oxford by facilitating successful funding applications which will attract and retain the best academics and clinicians; b) Foster collaborations locally, nationally and internationally and identify innovative areas of research and strategic partnerships that align with local and global aims; c) Highlight the impact of immunology, infection and inflammation research at Oxford through increased knowledge exchange and engagement with policy makers; and d) Establish efficient communication routes to facilitate the sharing of resources and expertise and to promote our achievements To work towards these objectives the Immunology Network has instigated resources to bring together the vast immunology community at Oxford. A dedicated immunology website is constantly evolving to include all research groups with an interest in immunology, and currently stands at 152 groups with additional groups regularly being added.

The Immunology Network has developed a bid with the Immunity and Infection Cluster to the NIHR OUH BRC RCF to instigate a Human Immune Discovery Initiative (HIDI). The award of £597,859.43 will support the development of HIDI, an initiative that aims to improve accessibility to immunological assays and expertise for all researchers across the University (and beyond). HIDI will act as a gateway to immunological resources by sponsoring 4 Discovery Platforms within the Medical Sciences Division. These Platforms, led by experienced researchers and include Deep immune phenotyping, Immune pathology, Genomics and metagenomics and Proteomics. Close links with OUH and OUI will allow the identification and rapid translation of research for patient benefit. Following the HIDI model, Dr Ryan, an NIHR academic clinical lecturer at the TGU, has driven the development of a Human Iron Research at Oxford (HIRO) group, alongside Profs Travis and Klenerman and with £500k financial support from Vifor. HIRO will provide funds to support a post-doctoral position to work with Dr Ryan and Prof Drakesmith, integrating the clinical and academic research strands, and will provide a network for all researchers interested in iron research. The Immunology Network has been valuable in capitalising on the recent Berlin-Oxford Initiative, a wide-ranging partnership between OxU and the four universities in Berlin. The Network participated in the inaugural Berlin-Oxford meeting at St Hugh’s College in January to identify common areas of research interest and formulate a plan for future collaborations. An outcome was a follow-up visit to Berlin by Dr Issa, Dr Hester and Professor Wood of NDS to cement two grant applications with Berlin collaboration.

Our mission (2)

To build on the Oxford Infectious Disease Programme, incorporating global surveillance and mapping as well as molecular tool development for tackling infections. We want to develop methods that can be applied in any setting (hospital, community, globally) and to integrate their output with clinical research that provides a better description of clinical syndromes associated with new emerging infections. These developments will be linked to our genomics expertise as well, to characterise more precisely the pathogens responsible for outbreaks of disease.  The programme will include:

  • Identifying and characterising new infectious threats at source, building capacity, infrastructure and systems for an urgent clinical research response to emerging infection diseases (EIDs); identifying EID outcomes and  factors that determine host and pathogen virulence.
  • Creating evidence-based maps for 174 global pathogens targeted for vaccine development, calibrating population risk and global burden of disease, and improving patient diagnostic and treatment algorithms.
  • Genomic transformation of clinical microbiology to promote unambiguous species identification, its antimicrobial resistance profile, it phylogeny and phenotype.
  • Understanding and controlling animal reservoirs, through a collaboration between the Pirbright Institute and the Oxford Jenner Institute.
  • Furthering the Oxford Vaccine Programme, which covers a wide range of activities bridging basic immunology and vaccine early development. Vaccine candidates in development include vaccines for malaria, TB, Dengue fever, influenza and HIV.
  • Treating antimicrobial resistant pathogens by working to develop a public-private partnership which brings together the expertise of academic and clinical microbiologists with the drug discovery capabilities in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Oxford, the Nuffield Department of Medicine and the Structural Genomics Consortium.
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