Professor S. John Curnow PhD

John Curnow

Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy
Professor of Biomedical Education
Director of Education for the College of Medical and Dental Sciences

Contact details

University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

John Curnow is a senior non-clinical lecturer in the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing. He is also the Director of Education for the College of Medical and Dental Sciences. John has published over 60 research papers in scientific journals in the field of translational human immunology, in particular ocular immunology, and more recently multiple sclerosis. He has received grants from Fight for Sight, the Medical Research Council and the MS Society.

In addition to his research he is committed to research-focused teaching at both an undergraduate and postgraduate level. He recently established the MSc in Immunology and Immunotherapy.


  • PhD, Immunochemistry University of Southampton, 1991
  • BSc 1st (Hons), Biology University of Southampton, 1988


John obtained a PhD in Immunochemistry from the University of Southampton where his research examined the activities of bispecific antibodies for the immunotherapy of cancer, many years before these molecules entered clinical trials. His first post-doctoral position was in Marseille, where he studied the mechanisms that regulate T cell tolerance. A move to Oxford followed where he researched the role of T cells in myasthenia gravis.

His interest in translational immunology continued when he was appointed lecturer at the University of Birmingham. His research was focused for many years on the regulation of immune responses in the eye and how these are altered in patients with uveitis. Over the past few years his research group have shifted to studies of multiple sclerosis, examining the early immunological events and how they can be used for both prognosis of disease progression and the development of novel therapeutic pathways. Dr Curnow established the MSc in Immunology and Immunotherapy, and is the current programme director.


Postgraduate supervision

Dr Curnow has supervised over 12 PhD students. His current student projects are:

  • Adaptive immune responses in multiple sclerosis
  • T cell responses in patients with early multiple sclerosis

There are a number of potential projects available in his group to self-funding students, including immune responses in multiple sclerosis, inflammatory pathways in uveitis, and fundamental aspects of adaptive immunity in humans. For further details visit FindAPhD.

If you are interesting in studying any of these subject areas please contact Professor John Curnow directly, or for any general doctoral research enquiries, please email

For a full list of available Doctoral Research opportunities, please visit our Doctoral Research programme listings.



There are a number of organs in the body that are relatively protected from immune attack; these include the brain and the eye. These organs are conferred a status of immune privilege. Dr Curnow’s research group are interested in studying the mechanisms that control immune responses within these tissues, and more importantly study disease where the privileged status of the tissue has been compromised.

Multiple sclerosis

The central nervous system is relatively protected from damaging inflammation. However in patients with multiple sclerosis there is a destructive inflammatory process with many pathogenic lymphocytes entering the central nervous system. Dr Curnow’s group are currently studying these cells to determine which are specific to this disease and how they relate to clinical progression. They study the two arms of the adaptive immune system, T and B cells. Their work has already demonstrated that the B cell response can be readily identified in the cerebrospinal fluid (Hassan-Smith 2014), even in patients with very early disease. This has led them to study the immune response in the early phases of disease in more detail, in an attempt to uncover the trigger that leads to the development of MS.

Uveitis (inflammation in the eye)

For patients with uveitis the degree of protection afforded to the eye appears to have failed and they can develop sight-threatening inflammation. Dr Curnow’s research has identified a number of pathways that are defective or have been overwhelmed in the eye of patients with uveitis, resulting in the observed inflammation (Denniston 2012, Denniston 2011, Curnow 2004).

Other activities


Recent publications


Roberts, A, Tang, T, Stewart, F, Pallini, C, Wallace, G, Cooper, A, Scott, A, Thickett, D, Lugg, S, Pinkney, T, Taylor, G, Brock, K, Stamataki, Z, Brady, CA, Curnow, J, Gordon, J, Qureshi, O, Barnes, N, Bentley, L, Juvvanapudi, J, Bancroft, H, Hemming, B, Ferris, C, Langman, G, Robinson, A, Chapman, J & Naidu, B 2021, 'Ex vivo modelling of PD-1/PD-L1 immune checkpoint blockade under acute, chronic, and exhaustion-like conditions of T-cell stimulation', Scientific Reports, vol. 11, no. 1, 4030.

Curnow, J, Rathbone, E, Durant, L, Kinsella, J, Parker, AR, Hassan-Smith, G & Douglas, M 2018, 'Cerebrospinal fluid immunoglobulin light chain ratios predict disease progression in multiple sclerosis', Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

Restorick, S, Durant, L, Kalra, S, Rathbone, E, Hassan-Smith, G, Douglas, M & Curnow, J 2017, 'CCR6+ Th cells in the cerebrospinal fluid of persons with multiple sclerosis are dominated by pathogenic non-classic Th1 cells and GM-CSF-only-secreting Th cells', Brain, Behaviour, and Immunity, vol. 64, pp. 71-79.

Rumel Ahmed, S, Newman, AS, O'Daly, J, Duffy, S, Grafton, G, Brady, CA, John Curnow, S, Barnes, NM & Gordon, J 2017, 'Inosine Acedoben Dimepranol promotes an early and sustained increase in the natural killer cell component of circulating lymphocytes: a clinical trial supporting anti-viral indications', International Immunopharmacology, vol. 42, pp. 108-114.

Kozielewicz, P, Alomar, H, Yusof, S, Grafton, G, Cooper, AJ, Curnow, SJ, Ironside, JW, Pall, H & Barnes, NM 2017, 'N-glycosylation and expression in human tissues of the orphan GPR61 receptor', FEBS Open Bio, vol. 7, no. 12, pp. 1982-1993.

Curnow, J & Rauz, S 2016, 'Conjunctival neutrophils predict progressive scarring in Ocular Mucous Membrane Pemphigoid', Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science (IOVS), vol. 57, no. 13, pp. 5457-5469.

Barry, RJ, Alsalem, JA, Faassen, J, Murray, PI, Curnow, S & Wallace, GR 2015, 'Association analysis of TGFBR3 gene with Behçet's disease and idiopathic intermediate uveitis in a Caucasian population', British Journal of Ophthalmology, vol. 99, no. 5, pp. 696-9.

Kozielewicz, P, Grafton, G, Kutner, A, Curnow, S, Gordon, J & Barnes, NM 2015, 'Novel vitamin D analogues; cytotoxic and anti-proliferative activity against a diffuse large B-cell lymphoma cell line and B-cells from healthy donors', The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Williams, G, Pachnio, A, Long, HM, Rauz, S & Curnow, SJ 2014, 'Cytokine production and antigen recognition by human mucosal homing conjunctival effector memory CD8+ T cells', Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science (IOVS), vol. 55, no. 12, pp. 8523-8530.

Hassan-Smith, G, Durant, L, Tsentemeidou, A, Assi, LK, Faint, JM, Kalra, S, Douglas, MR & Curnow, SJ 2014, 'High sensitivity and specificity of elevated cerebrospinal fluid kappa free light chains in suspected multiple sclerosis', Journal of Neuroimmunology, vol. 276, no. 1-2, pp. 175-179.

Soulier, A, Blois, SM, Sivakumaran, S, Fallah-arani, F, Henderson, S, Flutter, B, Rabbitt, EH, Stewart, PM, Lavery, GG, Bennett, C, Curnow, SJ & Chakraverty, R 2013, 'Cell-intrinsic regulation of murine dendritic cell function and survival by pre-receptor amplification of glucocorticoid', Blood.

Williams, G, Tomlins, PJ, Denniston, AK, Southworth, S, Sreekantam, S, Curnow, SJ & Rauz, S 2013, 'Elevation of conjunctival epithelial CD45INTCD11b⁺CD16⁺CD14⁻ neutrophils in ocular Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis', Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science (IOVS), vol. 54, no. 7, pp. 4578-4585.

Denniston, A, Tomlins, P, Williams, G, Kottoor, S, Khan, I, Oswal, K, Salmon, M, Wallace, G, Rauz, S, Murray, P & Curnow, S 2012, 'Aqueous Humor Suppression of Dendritic Cell Function Helps Maintain Immune Regulation in the Eye during Human Uveitis.', Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science (IOVS), vol. 53, no. 2, pp. 888-96.

Williams, G, Denniston, A, Oswal, K, Tomlins, P, Barry, R, Rauz, S & Curnow, S 2012, 'The dominant human conjunctival epithelial CD8αβ+ T cell population is maintained with age but the number of CD4+ T cells increases', Age (Dordrecht, Netherlands), vol. 34, no. 6, pp. 1517-1528.

Turan, N, Kalko, S, Stincone, A, Clarke, K, Sabah, A, Howlett, K, Curnow, S, Rodriguez, DA, Cascante, M, O'Neill, L, Egginton, S, Roca, J & Falciani, F 2011, 'A systems biology approach identifies molecular networks defining skeletal muscle abnormalities in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease', PLoS Computational Biology, vol. 7, no. 9, pp. e1002129.

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