Division of Infection and Immunity


Dr Gillian Tomlinson

I hold a medical degree from Edinburgh University and undertook postgraduate training in general medicine in Glasgow and London. I began my specialist training in respiratory medicine in Glasgow, and subsequently undertook an MRC Clinical Research Training Fellowship leading to a PhD in Immunology at University College London (UCL), which focussed on the roles of monocytes and macrophages in respiratory tract inflammation. I then applied my bioinformatics and computational expertise to discriminate tuberculosis, sarcoidosis and cancer in lymph node samples from patients under investigation for mediastinal lymphadenopathy, within my NIHR Academic Clinical Lecturer post. After completing my specialist respiratory training in London, I worked as a consultant respiratory physician in Glasgow, before returning to UCL with an MRC Clinician Scientist Fellowship, which funds my current research programme. I also have an honorary consultant post in respiratory and general medicine at University College London Hospital.

Research summary

The focus of my lab is to improve understanding of the molecular determinants of both protective and pathogenic immune responses in tuberculosis, which will inform development of novel treatments and vaccines and new ways to stratify risk of active disease.

Differences in the immune response to tuberculosis make a major contribution to clinical outcome, and evidence suggests that the best responses require inflammation to kill the bacteria, balanced by regulation to avoid pathology, but the molecular mechanisms that control this are unclear. We integrate a cutting-edge human experimental tuberculosis challenge model with studies using zebrafish to identify and validate host factors that calibrate a favourable immune response in tuberculosis. The zebrafish Mycobacterium marinum infection model provides a natural host-pathogen interaction with granulomatous inflammation that is an excellent model of human tuberculosis. Moreover, zebrafish larvae are optically transparent allowing us to visualise bacterial growth and cellular responses to infection.

We collaborate closely with Dr Mahdad Noursadeghi’s and Professor Benny Chain's groups which study host immune responses to infectious diseases at genome‑wide level with a particular focus on tuberculosis.