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21 May 2019

School of Immunology & Microbial Sciences sponsors two successful Clinical Academic Research Partnerships

Clinicians Dr Gaia Nebbia and Dr Peter Irving have both received funding from the MRC to pursue research projects in partnership with the School of Immunology & Microbial Sciences.

Gaia and Peter
Gaia and Peter

The MRC Clinical Academic Research Partnerships enable NHS consultants to increase their research skills and experience by engaging with groups and centres of biomedical research excellence. This fund enables the cross-seeding of perspectives, ideas and connections needed to underpin future translational biomedical research.

The School of Immunology & Microbial Sciences has successfully sponsored two consultants from Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust (GSTT) in undertaking research projects; Dr Gaia Nebbia and Dr Peter Irving.

Dr Gaia Nebbia is a consultant specialising in virology and infectious diseases. Her research project titled ‘Influenza Vaccines in the Elderly? Why don't they work’ aims to study the profile of influenza antibodies in elderly patients admitted to GSTT with laboratory-confirmed influenza and relate this information to the severity of their illness and type of vaccine they have received.

Using Nanopore whole genomic sequencing, Dr Nebbia and colleagues will also accurately determine which strain of influenza virus is present. A better understanding of the immune response and its ability to modify or predict illness severity will help to design better vaccines for this age group. This information is used to refine forecasting projections that are used in the NHS to predict the number of admissions due to influenza in winter which helps manage winter bed pressures and GP services.

This is an amazing opportunity and I am looking forward to working with colleagues at KCL, CIDR-GSTT and Public Health England. I would like to thank Professor Malim, Professor Edgeworth and Professor Zambon for their continuous support.

Dr Gaia Nebbia

Dr Peter Irving is a Consultant Gastroenterologist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital with a specialist interest in inflammatory bowel disease. His research project ‘Regulatory T cell therapy for IBD’ is based around the TRIBUTE study, which uses regulatory T cells (Tregs) harvested from patients with Crohn's disease which are expanded ex vivo before being reinfused into patients in order to treat their disease.

The research will look at the immunobiology of Tregs as a treatment for Crohn's disease and will explore how the cells can be manipulated in order to maximise their effectiveness as well as making them target the gut more efficiently. In addition, the researchers hope to look at how Treg therapy may be used beyond Crohn's disease and will investigate how to optimise the cells for use in a clinical trial in patients with ulcerative colitis as a first step to moving therapy into other areas.

I am delighted to have been awarded this grant. This new scheme will enable research-active NHS clinicians to devote more time to research. I am also hugely grateful to my academic partner Professor Graham Lord, who is hosting me in his laboratory as well as to Professor Giovanni Lombardi and Professor Mike Malim for their support

Dr Peter Irving.

We are delighted that four of these prestigious MRC partnership awards have been made to clinician scientists at King’s, with two being to colleagues hosted by our School. This reflects very positively on our core ambition to align fundamental biological research with its translation for patient benefit. We, therefore, look forward to working closely with Peter on regulatory T cell-based therapy for IBD, and with Gaia on influenza virus vaccination in the elderly.

Professor Michael Malim, Head of School of Immunology & Microbial Sciences