Dr S. John Curnow PhD

Dr S. John Curnow

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

Contact details

Institute of Inflammation and Ageing
College of Medical and Dental Sciences
University of Birmingham Research Laboratories
Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham
Mindelsohn Way, Edgbaston
Birmingham, B15 2WB

MS pathogenesisJohn 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: https://www.findaphd.com/search/ProjectDetails.aspx?PJID=53358&LID=139.

If you are interesting in studying any of these subject areas please contact Dr Curnow on the contact details above, or for any general doctoral research enquiries, please email: dr@contacts.bham.ac.uk or call +44 (0)121 414 5005.

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

  • Consultant for Celentyx Ltd, University of Birmingham spin-out company
  • Member of the British Society for Immunology
  • Secretary of the NeuroImmunology Affinity Group, British Society for Immunology
  • Member of the Association for Research into Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO)


Highlighted published work

Hassan-Smith G, Durant L, Tsentemeidou A, Assi LK, Faint JM, Kalra S, Douglas MR and Curnow SJ (2014) High sensitivity and specificity of elevated cerebrospinal fluid kappa free light chains in suspected multiple sclerosis. J NeuroImmunol 276(1-2):175–9

Denniston AK, Tomlins P, Williams GP, Kottoor S, Khan I, Oswal K, Salmon M, Wallace GR, Rauz S, Murray PI and Curnow SJ (2012) Aqueous humor suppression of dendritic cell function helps maintain immune regulation in the eye during human uveitis. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 53(2):888-96

Denniston AK, Kottoor SH, Khan I, Oswal K, Williams GP, Abbott J, Wallace GR, Salmon M, Rauz S, Murray PI and Curnow SJ (2011) Endogenous cortisol and TGF-beta in human aqueous humor contribute to ocular immune privilege by regulating dendritic cell function. J Immunol 186(1):305-11

Curnow SJ, Scheel-Toellner D, Jenkinson W, Raza K, Durrani OM, Faint JM, Rauz S, Wloka K, Pilling D, Rose-John S, Buckley CD, Murray PI and Salmon M (2004) Inhibition of T cell apoptosis in the aqueous humor of patients with uveitis by IL-6/soluble IL-6 receptor trans-signaling. J Immunol 173(8):5290-7

For a full list of publications please see:


View all publications in research portal