Dr Doug Fink visits the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Dec 2016
Dr Doug Fink and Dr Oseme Etomi visited the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research in Lagos, Nigeria. The visit was supported by the UCL Development Fund to initiate a collaboration between NIMR and UCL in the study of non-communicable diseases in the HIV-infected population. The visit was hosted by Dr Ezechi, head of the division of clinical sciences and his research team.
Publication in Nature, Aug 2016
Our collaborative work with Dr Leo James at the LMB in Cambridge has been accepted for publication in Nature:
David A. Jacques, William A. McEwan, Laura Hilditch, Amanda J. Price, Greg J. Towers, Leo C. James, HIV-1 uses dynamic capsid pores to import nucleotides and fuel encapsidated DNA synthesis, Nature. 2016 Aug 18;536(7616):349-53
We have discovered an entirely new feature of HIV: channels in the protein shell, or capsid, which surrounds the viral genome. These channels act like molecular hoovers sucking in the raw materials that fuel virus replication and importantly they are likely to be common to many viruses. Our work opens the possibility of a whole new range of broad-spectrum antiviral medication.
HIV remains a massive worldwide pandemic and whilst there have been giant advances in treatment there is still no vaccine and still no cure. The work of many scientists over many years has clearly shown that HIV has a remarkable ability to evade all aspects of our antiviral defences. How it does this has been unexplained. Many of our defences against viruses work by detecting or “sensing” incoming foreign genetic material. A long-standing question has been how is the virus able to copy its genome using raw materials from the cell without being detected. Our discovery provides the answer.
Taking an interdisciplinary approach, structural biologists from the LMB Cambridge and molecular virologists from UCL have discovered that the genome is copied inside the viral protein shell called the capsid. UCL author, Professor Greg Towers said, “We used to think that the capsid came apart as soon as the virus entered a cell. We now realise that the capsid protects the virus from our innate immune system and the channels we’ve discovered explain how the fuel for replication gets into the capsid to allow the genome to be made.
The impact of this new knowledge goes well beyond basic laboratory science. Some of the most important anti HIV drugs, the reverse transcriptase inhibitors (RTI), work by inhibiting the viral enzyme that copies the viral genome. It is now clear that these drugs must also transit the channel to enter the capsid and block the viral enzyme. Our work therefore offers two completely new opportunities for anti-viral drug development. Firstly, understanding how RTIs transit the channel opens enormous possibilities for improving their activity. Secondly, compounds that block the channel would be an entirely new class of anti-viral drugs. Senior author Dr Leo James said, “We have already designed a prototype inhibitor that directly targets the channel. We predict that this feature will be common to many viruses and will be an attractive target for a whole range of new antiviral drugs including new treatments for HIV and related viruses. Early studies are very promising.”
Lead author David Jacques said, “Our work really illustrates the value of taking a multidisciplinary approach to discovery research. It is the combination of our structural work with classical virology that enabled us to make, what I believe is a truly paradigm shifting discovery”.
Towers Lab Picnic, Aug 2016
The Towers lab and friends descended on Regents Park for a picnic.
BSc results, July 2016
Our summer students Meiyin Lin (UCL) and Elysia Upton (Imperial) achieved firsts in their BSc degrees. Congratulations!
John Walter wins a Wellcome Large Arts Award to be resident artist in the Towers Lab, June 2016
John has secured a Wellcome Trust Large Arts Award for project "CAPSID"(number:203868/Z/16/Z). He will work with us to use the imagery our work produces to stimulate engagement with the public and to encourage consideration of the cultural issues that work on HIV and STDs raises from a new perspective.
We have new publications:
From our colaboration with Dr Julia García Prado, July 2016
Jimenez E, Ruiz A, Kløverpris HN, Rodriguez-Plata MT, Peña R, Blondeau C, Selwood DL, Izquierdo-Useros N, Moris A, Clotet B, Goulder P, Towers GJ, Prado JG. Non-human TRIM5 variants enhance recognition of HIV-1-infected cells by CD8+ T cells. J Virol. 2016 Jul 20. pii: JVI.00819-16. [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 27440884
And from our collaboration with Prof David Selwood, Dec 2015
J, Pryce G, Hill JM, Shi X, Lennerås F, Puentes F, Kip M, Hilditch L,
Walker P, Simone MI, Chan AW, Towers GJ, Coker AR, Duchen MR, Szabadkai
G, Baker D, Selwood DL. Selective Inhibition of the Mitochondrial Permeability Transition Pore
Protects against Neurodegeneration in Experimental Multiple Sclerosis. J Biol Chem. 2016 Feb 26;291(9):4356-73. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M115.700385. Epub 2015 Dec 17. PMID: 26679998
Dr Chris van Tulleken films for an HIV BBC documentary. July 2016
Chris has been filming “The Truth about HIV” for the BBC. It will follow the history of the fight against HIV and the progress that has been made with interviews with leading scientists and people whose lives it has affected.
We believe Brexit is bad for Science, June 2016
And migration is good for science.
Cold Spring Harbor Retrovirus Meeting, May 2016
The Towers lab attended CSH Retrovirus meeting and presented several posters of their recent work. Click for our CSH gallery.
The Towers Lab presented posters at Keystone, March 2016
Greg, Maria T, Becky and Lucy attended the Keystone 'HIV Persistence: Pathogenesis and Eradication' Conference, Squaw Creek, California, USA. Greg and Maria T presented posters:
Characterisation of the role of CPSF6 and CypA in HIV-1 innate evasion in CD4+ T cells
Maria T. Rodriguez-Plata, Isobella Honeyborne, Rebecca P. Sumner, Greg J. Towers
Poster: X7 4005
Evasion of Innate Immune DNA sensing distinguishes pandemic HIV-1 M group from non-pandemic HIV-1 O group and HIV-1
Laura Hilditch, Jane Rasaiyaah, David Jacques, William McEwan, Katsia Bichel, Rebecca P. Sumner, Leo James, Greg J. Towers
Poster: X7 4021
Following the conference, Maria T, Becky and Lucy took the opportunity to visit some stunning parts of the US.
Richard Miles has secured a fellowship to study in New York, Jan 2016
Richard will head to New York in the early summer having secured the Charlotte and Yule Bogue Research Fellowship to visit the lab of Professor Singer. He will spend 3 months using fluorescence in-situ hybridisation to study how HIV-1 gene expression is regulated in response to integration site targeting.
Dr Doug Fink secures funding for his PhD, January 2016
Congratulations to Doug who has secured a Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Training Fellowship at UCL to fund his PhD on 'Primate lentiviral zoonosis and its control by intracellular innate immunity'.
Towers Lab Christmas celebrations, December 2015
The Towers lab celebrated Christmas with a curry at the Sri Lankan restaurant 'Watch Me' with friends. Earlier, some of the lab's braver members took on the 6 degree temperatures at the Kings Cross natural pond.
The Division Celebrates our Grant Winning P.I.s, September 2015
Food and wine reception was held to congratulate 4 of the Division's P.I.s for securing Wellcome Turst grants. For more pictures see the Wellcome Trust Reception Gallery
Wellcome Trust Grants, July 2015
Greg has secured a further 5 years of funding from the Welcome Trust along with fellow Division of Infection and Immunity researchers Dr Clare Jolly, Dr Ravi Gupta and Dr Joe Grove. Many congratulations to all.
Greg: Senior Research Fellowship renewal
'Characterisation of innate immune DNA sensing and viral evasion strategies'
Clare: Wellcome Trust Investigator Award.
"Virus-Host interactions regulating HIV-1 replication in T cells"
Ravi: Wellcome Senior Research Fellowship in Clinical Science
genetics and biology of drug resistant HIV'
Joe: Sir Henry Dale Fellowship, jointly funded by the Wellcome Trust and Royal Society.
'Characterising viral antibody evasion by conformational masking'
¡nspire! came to the lab, June 2015
¡nspire!'s iDiscover programme came to our lab to learn about viruses and allow the children to see science in a real world setting. They met with Professor Towers, PostDocs and PhD students and were able to use microscopes and make plasticine models of their own virus creations.
Cheltenham Science Fair, June 2015
Greg presented alongside Chris and Xand van Tulleken 'Viruses: Sneezes and Gore' at the Cheltenham Science fair on 6th June. Using real blood and guts they explained how viruses use the body to replicate and spread.
Dr Chris and Operation Ouch come to work
Dr Chris Van Tulleken, also known as Dr Chris from the BAFTA winning children's programme 'Operation Ouch', was filmed in the lab for a episode following him working for his PhD. Children will be able to watch as he works in tissue culture, at his bench and with his boss, Greg.
Cold Spring Harbor, May 2015
Laura Presented at the 2015 Retrovirus meeting at Cold Spring Harbor. Visit our CSH gallery
Embo Paper, May 2015
Adam's paper "TRIM5a requires Ube2W to anchor Lys63-linked ubiquitin chains and restrict reverse transcription" was accepted by EMBO.
Sierra Leone, April 2015
Jane T spent 5 weeks working in an Ebola diagnostic lab in Port Loko, Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone is one of the world’s poorest countries and Ebola struck hard. Schools shut, gatherings including markets were made illegal, construction and other projects were stopped in order to stem the spread of the virus. Many people lost their jobs. There is also a stigma associated with working with or surviving Ebola. It has been a crippling time.
went with a team of 12 volunteers drawn from PHE, the NHS and various
universities. We stayed in the
IHP (International Humanitarian Partnership) camp. An impressive collection
of tents with proper showers, laundry and kitchens, all managed by the Danish
military. We were very well looked after.
The lab was open from 6am to 10pm. We processed samples from the ETC (Ebola Treatment Centre) in Port Loko, and the community, by Taqman RT-PCR to test for Ebola. We also tested for Malaria, a common infection in Sierra Leone and one that mimics Ebola's early symptoms but can be easily treated in the ETCs. The health system has struggled under the burden of Ebola so management of other health issues has fallen by the way allowing diseases such as Measles to make a comeback.
West Africa is finally emerging from this outbreak. In the week to the 13th May there were 7 new cases in Guinea and only 2 in Sierra Leone (WHO Ebola situation reports). The schools reopened in April and the lab teams there at the moment are training local people so they can continue to run PHE labs as diagnostic facilities.
It was a very positive and intense experience. I am grateful for the opportunity and I would redeploy in a heartbeat!
Keystone, April 2015
Tan presented at the 2015 Innate Immunity and Determinants of microbial Pathogenesis conference run by Keystone Symposia at Squaw Creek, Olympic Valley, California USA.
Mucosal surfaces, reproductive health and HIV in prevention research Workshop, Jan 2015
Jane and Teresa presented at the 2015 Mucosal surfaces, reproductive health and HIV in prevention research Workshop in Cape Town, South Africa.
Could I get Ebola? Jan 2015
Greg was interviewed by Dr Chris Van Tulleken in his documentary investigating the risk of an Ebola outbreak in the UK. How easy is it to catch? Could the virus improve it's methods of transmission? Watch 'Could I get Ebola?' on BBC iPlayer.
Evening Standard Feature, Oct 2015
Doctors Chris and Xand Van Tulleken were featured in the Evening Standard's Life & Style Magazine. To read about Chris' circuitous route into HIV research, click here.
Dr Chris Van Tulleken wins the Max Perutz Science Writing Award, Oct 2015
Chris Van Tulleken celebrated winning the MRC’s Max Perutz Science Writing award sponsored by Metro at the Royal Institution in London this month. The award recognises and celebrates excellent written science communication by MRC PhD students who submit an 800 word article answering ‘Why does my research matter?’. Chris’s article entitled “Ex Africa Semper Aliquid Novo” discusses the sometimes surprising pathway research takes to realise its goals.
Cold Spring Harbor, May 2014
Greg and Jane presented at the Retrovirus meeting in Cold Spring Harbor
Visit our Cold Spring Harbor gallery
CROI Presentation, March 2014
Greg presented at the 2014 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections at Croi. His talk entitled 'HIV-1 Evades Innate Immune Recognition Through Specific Co-Factor Recruitment' is available as a podcast.
Page last modified on 08 dec 16 18:09 by Jane Lorna Elizabeth Turner