Skip to main content
KBS_Icon_questionmark link-ico

5 minutes with... Sophia Karagiannis

Sophia Karagiannis is Professor of Translational Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy in the St. John’s Institute of Dermatology, School of Basic & Medical Biosciences and leads the Cancer Antibody Discovery & Immunotherapy Group. We took five minutes of her time to talk about her research into IgE immunotherapy, her source of inspiration and much more.

Briefly, tell us about your background and career up to this point?

I am a cancer immunologist and have been working on B cells, antibodies, and cancer immunotherapy for over 30 years. My Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Biochemistry were obtained at Rutgers University, USA, and my PhD at King’s College London in B cell Immunology working with Professors Brian Sutton and Hannah Gould.

My career path has since moved across academic, pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors in London and Cambridge. Currently, my cancer antibody discovery group specialises in understanding B cell and antibody immune responses in patients with cancer and in designing therapeutic monoclonal antibodies and derivatives for the treatment of melanoma, ovarian and breast cancers. We are studying key components of the immune response, including effector cells which interact with and have the potential to be activated by therapeutic antibodies.

Looking back, what has the pandemic and resulting lockdowns taught you?

The friendship, collaboration and support of my fantastic colleagues and research group, alongside our conviction to continue our work towards better treatments for patients with cancer, have been great sources of strength and are still keeping us going.

What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

Let your enthusiasm for science and innovation guide you. Enjoy every day and every step, keep a positive mindset.

Friendship, resilience, perseverance, and collaboration will be the best parts of the journey.

Who inspires you most and why?

I firmly believe in the key role of higher education in society. As academics, our roles are to help train, develop and support the next generation of scientists, clinician scientists and innovators. Nurturing the next generation of immunologists and working with our students, clinical and basic research scientists to realise their potential and their career aspirations is the best source of inspiration.

What is something positive that has happened to you in 2021?

I am one of the founding members of AllergoOncology, a research field focused on the interphase between allergy and cancer, to which my group’s research has made significant contributions.

In 2021, we became a recognised Working Group by the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI). I consider this as a proud achievement which I believe is partly in recognition of our field’s contribution to the interdisciplinary fields of allergy and oncology. I was also humbled to be elected as Working Group Secretary as we expand this community and support our Working Group’s four new Task Forces.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

We have worked with several colleagues to conduct a Phase I clinical trial of a first-in-class IgE therapeutic candidate in patients with cancer, which was headed by Prof James Spicer here at King’s and GSTT.

IgE antibodies are known to cause allergies, but they also destroy parasites and protect us from infections. Our group engineered IgE antibodies, to utilise the allergy mechanisms against cancer. We showed that IgE activates a different arm of the immune system, which could be used to exert potent anti-tumour effects.

In the last five years we founded a biotechnology spin out, Epsilogen Ltd (formerly IGEM Therapeutics Ltd.), the first immuno-oncology company dedicated to developing IgE therapeutic agents for cancer. Our company has attracted significant funding and investment, including recent Series B financing to support further development and clinical studies of IgE-based antibody immunotherapies to treat cancer.

Our group is the first internationally to design, evaluate and translate IgE antibodies to the oncology clinic. I am immensely proud to have provided the foundations for this novel class of therapeutics and we aspire to be able to offer new treatment options for patients with cancer.

What is your favourite thing about working at King’s?

I am proud of our diverse community of talent, and I consider myself very privileged to work with my colleagues. I am in awe of our wonderful students and young scientists who achieve so much, often under very difficult circumstances. They always inspire me with their commitment to science and medicine, and their compassion for their fellow human beings.


Favourite cuisine: It will have to be Greek and Italian!

Coffee order: Skinny mocha cappuccino

One thing you could not go a day without: Thinking of and caring for my loved ones.

Describe yourself in three words… Positivity, perseverance, friendship.

Most-used emoji: 😊

In this story

Sophia Karagiannis

Sophia Karagiannis

Professor of Translational Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy 

Latest news