MRC Human Immunology Unit
The HIU has provided over the years a distinct set of programmes and skills that have acted as a crucial strategic focus for Human Immunology not only in Oxford, but also at national and international levels. By taking basic immunological discoveries and translating them into patients, the HIU has created a thriving critical mass of scientists and clinical scientists with diverse skills in diverse disease areas, such as cancer, infectious diseases, neuroscience and gastroenterology. This has had a profound strategic influence within Oxford, as the development and success of programmes in clinical vaccinology, structural biology, and genetics have all relied at some point on activities supported within the Unit. The success of the HIU has greatly benefited from its location within the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (WIMM), and from the overall Oxford-wide Immunology programme, which remains one of the greatest strengths in Oxford biomedical research. Since 2010, the HIU has been directed by Professor Vincenzo Cerundolo.The mission of Human Immunology Unit (HIU) is to foster research in Human Immunology and to apply this knowledge to the development of better treatment strategies against infectious diseases, cancer, allergy and autoimmune diseases. These include understanding how the most prevalent human diseases are associated with long lasting and persistent inflammatory processes, the micro-environmental factors that affect these responses, and identification of strategies for enhancing the response to tumours and chronic viral infections and restore peripheral tolerance during autoimmunity.
The range of work in the Unit extends from basic human immunology on T cell recognition of peptide and lipid antigens (Davis, Ogg, Dong, Cerundolo), innate immunity (Cerundolo, Rehwinkel, Simmons) and lymphatics (Jackson) to understanding immune mechanisms in disease and ageing (Fugger – multiple sclerosis, Ogg – atopy, Dong- influenza, Cerundolo- melanoma; Simmons – Crohn’s disease; Cornall, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Simon, autophagy) to vaccine development (Cerundolo – cancer; Dong: influenza virus), therapeutic antibodies (Davis; Townsend), and B cell maturation (Bannard). More recently the HIU has activated two additional complementary and strategically important research programmes focussed on the control of immune response by nutrients (Drakesmith) and on single-molecule fluorescence spectroscopy to visualize during immune responses localization and dynamics of single molecules in live cells (Eggeling).
Thus the Unit spans basic to translational immunology with experimental medicine programmes and clinical trials in vaccine development in infectious diseae and cancer, therapies for eczema and multiple sclerosis. This combination with its broad strengths is unique.
A crucial feature of the HIU research is the interaction with clinical medicine through the clinical departments. Through Unit scientists who hold Consultant and honorary Consultant NHS contracts in a variety of relevant clinical specialties, there are strong links to the Department of Medical Oncology (Cerundolo), Dermatology (Ogg); Clinical Neurology (Fugger); Nephrology (Cornall); Clinical Immunology (Cornall), Gastroenterology (Simmons). These contacts make studies on patients and patient material possible.
By continuing to attract scientists and clinical scientists working in the context of Experimental Medicine and focussing on the issues of Immunology and disease, the HIU is able to broaden basicresearch in humans by fostering the pursuit of basic discovery in the clinic.
Latest HIU News
Professor Jan Rehwinkel’s team from the MRC Human Immunology Unit have found that human cells use viruses as Trojan horses, transporting a messenger that encourages the immune system to fight the very virus that carries it. The discovery could have implications for the design of new vaccines. Scientists already knew that when a virus containing or producing DNA enters a cell in the body it is detected by a protein called cGAS. This in turn produ ...