Maini Group


Previous Members

Dr Kerstin Stegmann

I joined the group in April 2014 as a postdoctoral research associate. I completed my PhD investigating the effect of IFNa on NK cells in chronic Hepatitis C in Prof Heiner Wedemeyer's lab in the Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Endocrionology at the Hannover Medical School, Germany before I worked as a postdoctoral research fellow in Prof Eleanor Riley's lab at the Department of Infection and Immunology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine investigating the role of NK cells in Malaria infection.

My project consisted of investigating the role of NK cells in antiviral immunity and liver fibrosis.

2014 members

Dr Emily Colbeck

I worked as a Research Technician in the Maini Lab, and joined in January 2016 after completing my PhD in Cancer Immunology in Professor Awen Gallimore's Lab at Cardiff School of Medicine. I assisted with general lab duties, as well as undertaking experiments on a joint collaborative project between the Maini Lab at UCL and Gilead Sciences biopharmaceutical company in Foster City, California.

I was involved with an ongoing project investigating the feasibility of therapeutic manipulation of Myeloid Derived Suppressor Cells (MDSC), an immunosuppressive immune cell subset, in the treatment of Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. Previous work in the Maini Lab headed by Dr Laura Pallett showed a significant enrichment of MDSCs in the liver of chronic HBV patients, where they expressed high levels of Arginase-1; an enzyme involved in L-Arginine catabolism to deprive immune effectors including T cells of this amino acid. Critically, MDSC suppressed the proliferation of functionally active HBV-specific and bystander T cells in an Arginase-1 dependent manner. We, therefore, postulate that small molecules able to deplete or block the suppressive capacity of MDSC in the liver could restore effective anti-viral T cell responses, leading to resolution of infection.  

Dr Wei-Chen Huang

I am a hepatologist from Taiwan and was honourably funded by our government to study viral immunology at UCL from 2012 to 2016. I was really fortunate to have had the opportunity to join the Maini Group where I completed my PhD and gained valuable research experience.

My studies mainly focused on the Natural Killer (NK) cell and NKG2D (an NK cell receptor) pathway in chronic HBV infection. With my background as a clinician, the Maini Lab enabled me to pursue up-to-date immunology research. NK cell immunity and interactions in HBV infection is one of many important research fields within our group. Abundant resources from nearby hospitals and the chance to collaborate with other clinicians and scientists makes the Maini Group the ideal choice to link basic immunology and lab study with real-world clinical practice.

wei chen huang
Dr Itziar Otano-Andres

I joined the Maini Group in January 2012 as a postdoctoral fellow after obtaining my PhD under the supervision of Dr Gloria Gonzalez in the Division of Gene Therapy and Hepatology at the Center of Applied Medical Research from the University of Navarra (Spain). There I investigated the modulation of immune responses in chronic Hepatitis B infection using third generation adenovirus. I am interested in engineering virus specific CD8 T cells with gene therapy. Patients with chronic HBV infection have an impaired immune response shown to be related to Bim-mediated depletion of virus specific CD8 T cells or their functional inactivation (exhaustion) due to co-inhibitory molecules (PD-1). I made progress in developing a lentivirus transduction protocol favouring the transduction of HBV specific CD8 T cells in order to investigate the reversal of T cell exhaustion by knocking down expression of Bim and PD-1.

email: iotanoan@alumni.unav.es

itziar otano andres
Dr Marion Duriez

I'm a post-doctoral fellow and I joined the Maini Group in November 2014. My PhD focused on the intracellular trafficking of HBV precore protein, the precursor of HBeAg, under the supervision of Prof. J-M. Rossignol. From there I undertook my first post-doctoral position with Dr. E. Menu in F. Barré-Sinoussi's Unit at the Pasteur Institut. This work studied the crosstalk of human decidual NK cells and macrophage, and their involvement in the control of HIV-1 infection at the materno-foetal interface. 

Before joining the Maini group, my latest research project focused on the impact of Hepatitis B Spliced protein (HBSP) on liver fibrogenesis in the transgenic mouse model under the supervision of Dr. P. Soussan. During the project, I investigated intrahepatic immune cell recruitment and the cytokine liver microenvironment.

Dr Harsimran Singh

I completed my PhD jointly supervised by Professsors William Rosenberg and Mala Maini. I joined the Rosenberg and Maini groups as a Research Assistant in 2009 and began my PhD studies in 2011. I focused on the role of the immune response in Hepatitis B (HBV) in liver fibrogenesis. I investigated the interaction between lymphocytes and human stellate cells. All my experiments were conducted with HBV patient lymphocytes and primary hepatic stellate cells from human donors.

email: harsimran.singh@ucl.ac.uk

harsimran singh
Dr Antony Chen

I did my PhD studies at the department of Clinical Virology, Karolinska Institutet under the supervision of Professor Matti Sällberg. My PhD thesis was about designing therapeutic DNA vaccines against hepatitis B and C. I also learnt to synthesize large peptide libraries and expanded my knowledge in molecular biology.

I continued with a collaborative post-doc together with Dr Antonio Bertoletti, A-STAR, Singapore and Professor Mala Maini at UCL, learning more about liver immunology and hepatitis B virus interaction with the human immune system.

Little is known about HBV antigen presentation in the liver and how it affects the pathological outcomes of chronic infection. Using two T-cell receptor-like monoclonal antibodies I worked to define the topography of HBV antigen presentation for T cells in the chronically infected liver. The TCR-like mAb are powerful tools allowing accurate visualisation of antigen presentation within the diseased HBV-infected human liver and help our understanding of how T cells are tolerised in persistent HBV infection.

email: antony.chen.lab@gmail.com

antony chen


Dennis Obonyo

While undertaking a Masters of Infection and Immunity course in UCL funded by the Wellcome Trust Masters Fellowship Programme, I joined the Maini Group working with Dr. Nicholas Easom in setting up an in vitro functional assay looking at the interaction between NK cells and hepatocellular carcinoma cells via NKG2D.

NKG2D - NKG2D-ligand interaction plays an essential role in tumour "immunosurveillance". The exact mechanism by which tumour cells evade immune recognition remains unclear with conflicting findings reported in previous mice model and human studies. We are looking at how the interactions between the tumour cells and tumour environment affect NK cells function. 



email: dennisodera@gmail.com

Dr Anna Schurich

I was previously a research fellow in the Maini lab and joined the group after completing my PhD in Professor Percy Knolle's lab at the Institute of Molecular Medicine and Experimental Immunology at the University of Bonn, Germany.

I have now taken up a position as a Lecturer at King's College London. My interests are in the metabolic regulation of virus-specific T cell responses.