Research themes and groups

Within the Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy our ultimate aim is to make a meaningful difference in the lives of patients fighting diseases. Our research includes all components of the bench-to-bedside pathway. It focuses on understanding the molecular and cellular control of the immune system and translating this into therapies and treatments for diseases including cancer, autoimmunity and inflammatory disease.

Immune Regulation

The Institute is uniquely placed in having a breadth of immunological interests spanning from fundamental science through translational immunology to the provision of a clinical immunology service to the NHS.

The aim of the Immune Regulation theme is to provide advances in fundamental understanding of the tissues, cells and molecules of the immune system. This knowledge is gained through analysis of immune cells from in vivo models.

We make extensive use of gene manipulation in in vivo models to define the role of specific molecules and apply cutting edge technologies to study them. Our aim is to determine the nature of lymphoid tissues and how their architecture contributes to immune cell differentiation and immune regulation; to define the nature of the genes, proteins and cells making up the innate and adaptive immune systems by characterising their role in differentiation, homeostasis and regulation of the immune response; to understand immunity to pathogens and how this can be used to improve vaccination strategies; and to define the pathogenesis of immunological diseases ranging from autoimmunity to transplant rejection and how to manipulate the immune system through immunotherapy.

Our strength lies in the breadth of interests represented by principal investigators in Immune Regulation and by their combined expertise in the use of gene manipulation in in vivo and experimental disease models to define the role of individual genes and proteins.

Our research strategy is to make fundamental discoveries that advance our understanding of the immune system and, where possible, build on these to design approaches for the prevention and treatment of human diseases.  

Gut/Liver Inflammation 

The vision of the Centre for Liver Research is to deliver an outstanding pipeline of bench to bedside research in inflammatory gastrointestinal and liver diseases. This is achieved by close working of scientists and clinicians with murine and human tissue to delineate key mechanisms, discover and validate new biomarkers and identify novel targets in pre-clinical and clinical settings.

A key goal will be to explore the shared and unique pathogenic pathways between liver and intestinal inflammatory diseases. Interactions with industry at all stages of this process are a key part of our strategy, as well as integration of clinical and scientific expertise.

Our strength lies in the breadth of interests represented by key opinion leaders/principal investigators in the fields of inflammatory gastrointestinal and liver diseases. Alongside expertise in the use of experimental disease models we have unrivalled access to human tissue with a robust laboratory infrastructure to support human and murine studies of inflammation.  

Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy

Cancer Immunology represents a strong and developing theme within the Institute. Building on exceptional international interest within this area, our investigators work within a broad range of interests and are characterized by a strong translational focus.

Cancer Immunology is one of three research domains within the successful Cancer Research UK Birmingham Centre (awarded in 2017) and the Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy Centre (CIIC; active since 2012). CIIC is a University of Birmingham-wide grouping facilitating interdisciplinary development of this theme. 

Our aim is to make significant contributions to understanding the fundamental processes that underlie the immune response to cancer and to translate this into therapeutic opportunities with our NHS partners. Future plans will see us strengthen national and international collaborations, deepen our interactions with industry and contribute to training within this exciting area of biology.  

Cross Cutting Themes

Immunotherapy

Our aim is to undertake cutting edge research in fundamental immunology and develop this through clinical trials for patient benefit. Practical application of the advances in fundamental immunology arising from the Institute is realised through our work in vaccine development and immunotherapy. The development of novel immunotherapies focuses on three important areas of clinical medicine, namely inflammation, cancer and autoimmune diseases.

The NIHR Birmingham Biomedical Research Centre brings together experts from University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Birmingham (as part of Birmingham Health Partners) to develop new treatments for patients with inflammatory joint, muscle, bowel and liver diseases. Immune mediated inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis, colitis and liver disease, are increasingly common and constitute a major cause of suffering and premature death. 

Clinical Immunology

The University of Birmingham is unique in having a clinical immunology service embedded within an academic environment. This creates an ideal interface between basic, translational and clinical research groups, the NHS, and the pharmaceutical and biodiagnostics industries.

The Clinical Immunology Service (CIS) laboratory provides UKAS ISO 15189 accredited laboratory diagnostics, clinical advice and patient management for immunodeficiency, autoimmunity and inflammation, allergy and cancers of the immune system. It receives more than 100,000 blood, marrow, urine and other samples per year and reports more than 500,000 tests. It provides services to more than 100 NHS Trusts across the UK, charging on a cost per test basis, and also has income from grants and commercial organisations.

The priority of the CIS is the provision of a high standard of patient care and of research to develop our understanding of clinical immunology in the context of health and in the management of disease and the service underpins clinical practice and research in immunodeficiency autoimmunity and inflammation, allergy and cancers of the immune system. 

Vaccine Development

The Institute has a strong pedigree in understanding the fundamental mechanisms that underpin the success of vaccination and in the development of novel vaccines and their mode of action, developing from the work of Professor Ian MacLennan FRS CBE and Professor Peter Lane.

Birmingham is now one of only very few centres in the UK that studies the basic and clinical immunology surrounding B cell responses to vaccines and infection, with groups combining iterative in vivo studies. Complementing our strengths in B cell-focused vaccine work are therapeutic vaccine programmes that have resulted in the development and trial in humans of therapeutic vaccines that target the Epstein-Barr Virus in nasopharyngeal carcinoma, led by Professor Graham Taylor.