Personal profile

Biography

I gained my Batchelor's degree in Zoology at the Univeristy of Nottingham in 1979. I then moved to the University of Glasgow to study for my Ph.D under the supervision of Derek Wakelin at the Wellcome Laboratories for Experimental Parasitology. Following graduation I moved with Derek to the MRC Experimental Parasitology Group, Dept of Zoology,University of Nottingham in 1982 where I undertook postdoctoral research until 1987. In 1987 I was appointed Lecturer in Immunology in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Manchester and following promotion to Senior Lecturer and Reader, became Professor of Immunology in 1998.

Research interests

Immunity to parasitic infection

Worldwide, parasites are some of the most prevalent infections of man and his domestic animals and are responsible for much debilitating disease and ill-health. Of all the types of parasite, gastrointestinal dwelling roundworms (nematodes) constitute the most common with in excess of one billion people currently infected.

Humans often carry infections for many years, which appear to survive the attack of the body's defence system, the immune system. Our research is focussed on defining the regulation of the immune response to gastrointestinal dwelling nematodes using well established model systems. A major focus is the role that different populations of leukocytes , particularly T lymphocyes , play in resistance and susceptibility through the secretion of cytokines and the activation of effector mechanisms that can remove parasites from the intestine. We have identifed novel mechanisms of parasite control and defined the ways in which the immune system is modulated to allow chronic infections to develop. We are also using genetic analyses to identify new genes that influence resistance and susceptibility to infection. We have identified important the interactions between the parasites and the microflora of the intestine and are investigating the consequences of these interactions upon the immune response. Studies are also focussed on the molecules secreted by the parasites that modulate host protective immunity.  In conjunction with the Sanger Centre we are involved in the mouse whipworm geneome project. Our research will have important consequences for the future development of control strategies of these `neglected' diseases, with particular application to vaccine work, in addition to opening up new avenues for immunotherapy in a variety of infectious and non-infectious diseases of the mucosa.

Overview

Infection of man and animals by large parasites is extremely common throughout the world. This is particularly true for roundworm parasites that live in the intestine with over 1 billion people currently infected with at least one type of roundworm. Infections can be debilitating with children suffering the worst disease. Our research goal is to understand in detail how these parasites are able to survive in infected individuals for so long and why our immune system is unable to remove them from the body. We are also researching into how we need to activate the immune system in order to control these kinds of infections. Our research will help develop better ways of combating these diseases in both man and animals e.g. through the development of vaccines. We also hope to identify the ways that parasites effectively alter immune responses which may open up new ways of treating other diseases where the immune system is over active such as autoimmune diseases like diabetes or allergic diseases such as asthma.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Lydia Becker Institute
  • Healthier Futures

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