Vaccine Development

A surgeon holding a syringeWe are now one of very few centres in the UK that study the basic and clinical immunology surrounding B cell responses to vaccines and infection, with groups combining iterative studies in the mouse and human. 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.

Theme Lead
Professor Adam Cunningham

Professor of Functional Immunity

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About 0ur research

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 Epstein-Barr Virus in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (Graham Taylor). There is an extensive use of immunisation studies in humans, using seasonal flu, anti-pneumococcal vaccines and the typhoid vaccine Vi, to interrogate the immune response in the context of primary and secondary immunodeficiencies (Kai Toellner, Mark Drayson, Alex Richter and Adam Cunningham with close collaboration with members from other institutes including Janet Lord, Lorraine Harper and others).

The above studies extend into translational studies examining how circadian rhythm and inflammation alter the success of vaccination (Kai Toellner and Mark Drayson). Whilst these studies have led to a number of exciting discoveries around immune function in the context of ageing, rituximab treatment and autoimmunity, there have been other recent opportunities in clinical infectious diseases that have arisen through the growth of closer links with Heartlands and City Hospitals in Birmingham (led by Matt O’Shea). These centres care for a significant number of patients and returning travellers presenting with complex infections (TB, typhoid etc). This is partly due to demographics and the diversity of residents in one of the largest NHS Executives in the country, but also as the city is home to one of only three accredited specialist tropical medicine sites in the UK (Heartlands). This closer collaboration provides an unparalleled opportunity to apply our immunological strength to study complex infectious disease in human patients, and links well with the aims of BactiVac.

Underpinning these studies in humans are our fundamental strengths in B cell biology using in vivo models and the expertise in microbial cell wall biology (Ian Henderson, Del Besra - IMI). This allows us to study the B cell response to infection, to bacterial cell wall components and the protective efficacy of vaccination in an interconnected manner not available in most institutions (Adam Cunningham, Kai Toellner, Cal MacLennan). Moreover, we are able to examine the consequences of immunisation through the study of structure-function relationships of different antibody isotypes with the antigens they target (Roy Jefferis, Margaret Goodall, Kai Toellner, Adam Cunningham). Such studies have led to multiple patents that have been translated directly or have led to long-term and ongoing relationships with industrial partners (e.g. Adam Cunningham and Cal MacLennan with GSK/GVGH). Therefore, Birmingham has a long-established pedigree in studies allied to vaccine work, but has now developed this to be of much more focused on clinical practice and the needs of industry.