We are delighted to announce that Alison Simmons, Professor of Gastroenterology at the Nuffield Department of Medicine and MRC Human Immunology Unit, has been elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences.
This honour recognizes her work on innate immunity and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a condition where immune dysregulation within the intestine leads to debilitating symptoms and morbidity. Around 40% IBD patients fail to respond to available treatments and while many attempts have been made to introduce new therapies these have failed, as little is understood about the molecular aetiology of intestinal inflammation in human tissue. Her work has provided the rationale for innovative treatments and diagnostic tools.
Research by Prof Simmons and her group has provided fundamental new insights into IBD pathogenesis. Recent work redefined the cellular map of the intestine, discovering unexpected heterogeneity and hitherto unknown cell types. It charted the basis of mucosal remodelling that fuels inflammation in colitis, defining populations of disease associated cells and highlighting new pathways impairing mucosal healing. In other recent work they also defined new molecular determinants of colonic barrier health that break down in colitis to facilitate the cycle of dysbiosis that fuels inflammation.
Previously Prof Simmons also contributed to defining the function of the strongest IBD susceptibility genes, describing the basis for their dysfunction in Crohn’s disease. The group also increased our understanding of pattern recognition receptor biology and immune evasion. This includes how invasive strains of Salmonella cause disseminated disease in immunosuppressed individuals and mechanisms employed by HIV-1 to avoid innate sensing and cell intrinsic immune destruction.
Prof Simmons trained in medicine and gastroenterology in London, Cambridge and Oxford and undertook a PhD with Andrew McMichael in Oxford. She became an NIHR Research Professor in 2013 and Prof of Gastroenterology in 2014, both in Oxford. She is currently a Group Leader in the MRC Human Immunology Unit, Wellcome Investigator and consultant gastroenterologist at OUH NHS FT.
The new 50 Academy of Medical Sciences Fellows have been selected for their outstanding contributions to advancing medical science, cutting edge research discoveries, and translating developments into benefits for patients and wider society. Many of the new Fellows have also made a contribution to medical science through outstanding leadership, public engagement and supporting the career advancement of junior trainees. More information about the new fellows can be found here.