Maini Group


Current Members

Dr Laura Pallett

I am a Senior Postdoctoral Research Fellow within the group, and currently hold the title of the longest standing group member...! My current research interests are in immunometabolism and tissue residency, specifically in the context of chronic HBV infection and liver immunology.

One of my current, ongoing, projects i built around the hypothesis that lymphocytes can dynamically regulate nutrient transporter expression and uptake to fine-tune or recalibrate T cell function in the contect of nutrient starvation. The other key project of mine builds on the concept revealed by a number of recent studies, including our own (Pallett et al. JEM 2017, Pallett & Burton et al. JEM 2020), that a specialised population of resident memory CD8+ T cells (TRM) exist within tissues, that lack th ability to recirculate. We are currently inveatigating the specific adaptations imprinted by the local microenvironment and furthering our inderstanding of their contribution to health and disease.

I am passionatee about science communication and am one of the co-founders and co-authors of the @maini_lab twitter feed, along with Alice, to bring our lab's work (and all our fun and games!) to a broader audience. I am also an 'Earl Careers Representative' on the British Society of Immunolgy Forum, secretary of the BSI-affiliated London Immunology Group and co-chair of the BSI-affiliated Immunometabolism Affinity Group.

 Dr Leo Swadling

I joined Mala's group in Jan 2017 after completing my PhD in Professor Ellie Barnes' and Professor Paul Klenerman's laboratories in the Peter Medawar Building at the University of Oxford. For my PhD I worked on Phase I clinical trials of candidate viral vectored vaccines for Hepatitis-C (ChAd3-NSmut and MVA-NSmut). I developed novel technologies to optimise T-cell vaccines and to characterise the phenotype and function of the vaccine induced T-cells. This vaccine regimen has now progressed to the first phase-II trial of a T-cell vaccine for HCV (Baltimore, USA).

I have moved to Mala's group to follow my interest in T-cell intrinsic regulatory mechanisms and dysfunction, in particular in the context of chronic viral infection. I hope to better our understanding of these mechanisms and the potential for recovering T-cell functionality to optimise immunotherapies and T-cell vaccines.

Dr Alice Burton

My work investigates the roles of B cells in the context of chronic Hepatitis B infection. There is growing evidence to suggest that B cells are critical to the control of HBV, yet their involvement in chronic infection has been little studied. Previous work within our group identified B cells with the capacity to regulate T cells in chronic HBV infection (Das et al. 2012). My PhD was focused on characterising antigen-specific B cells in HBV and showed that HBV-specific B cells have a dysfunctional phenotype in patients with chronic HBV infection (Burton et al. 2018). 

I am also an Early Career's Representative for the BSI and also co-author of the lab's Twitter feed and website.

Dr Nathalie Schmidt

I joined the Maini lab in October 2016 as a clinical research fellow with a German Research Foundation (DFG) fellowship. After the end of my fellowship I decided to stay in the Maini lab and have now started a PhD in October 2019. Previously, I worked in Robert Thimme's group at the University of Freiburg on the functionality of CD8+ T cells in liver cancer and melanoma.

My work focuses on T cell immunometabolism in the context of chronic HBV infection and liver cancer. I’m especially interested in how we can modulate T cell metabolism (e.g. cholesterol) to enhance antiviral and antitumour immune function to improve current therapeutic strategies. Moreover, I aim to understand the effects of immunotherapy on T cells and the reasons why only a fraction of patients responds to these treatments.

Besides my work in the lab, I am interested in public engagement and I am one of UCL’s Pint of Science event managers to bring researchers and the public together to discuss science.

 Dr Marianna Diniz

I joined the group in April 2017 as a postdoctoral research associate. Previously, I worked in the development of therapeutic vaccines targeting HPV-induced cancer as a postdoctoral fellow in Prof Luis Carlos Ferreira's Lab at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, and in Prof Eric Tartour's Lab at the Hospital Georges Pompidou in Paris. My work demonstrated the role of resident-memory T cells in tumor protection, and used different approaches to block immunosuppression to increase the potency of therapeutic vaccines.

Currently, I aim to better understand the role of NK and CD8 T cells in a mouse model of chronic HBV infection. I investigate immunotherapeutic strategies to boost or rescue T cell function and increase their efficacy in controlling chronic HBV infection.

  Dr Oli Amin

I joined the Maini group in April 2017 to pursue new interests in immunology following the completion of my PhD in Medical Microbiology at Newcastle University in the lab of Professor Brendan Kenny.


As senior research technician, my position is to assist in a number of roles including all general lab duties, liaising with clinical teams, sourcing and processing of human tissue samples, whilst managing research ethics and group finances. In addition to this, I also lead on several research projects in collaboration with Gilead Sciences, a leading pharmaceutical company in hepatitis research.

Dr Anna Jeffery-Smith

I have joined the Maini lab as a clinical research fellow undertaking a PhD as part of a collaboration between Dr Patrick Kennedy at QMUL and Professor Maini. Whilst working as a clinician training in infectious diseases and virology, I have developed a strong interest in hepatitis B virus infection and the impact of host virus interactions on disease outcomes. I will be focusing on B cell and antibody responses in the different stages of infection with the aim identifying potential immunotherapeutic targets. 

My PhD project is funded by a Medical College of St Bartholomew's Hospital Trustees Clinical Research Training Fellowship and a British Infection Association Research Fellowship Award.

 Dr Nekisa Zakeri


I joined the Maini group in September 2018 as a clinical PhD research fellow, after completing my hepatology academic clinical fellowship at UCL/Royal Free. I was awarded a Wellcome Trust UCL PhD Research Fellowship for Clinicians, through which I am currently investigating the role of gamma-delta T-cells in cirrhosis and their interaction with the gut microbiome. In particular, I hope to provide novel insights into the impact of bacterial translocation on gamma-delta T-cell function in non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.

Stephanie Kucykowicz

I joined the Maini Lab in March 2019 as Research Technician. I completed my M.Sc. in Parasitology from McGill University in Montreal in Dr. Rohrbach's lab working on the role of parasite-derived extracellular vesicles during a malaria infection. Following this, I wanted to expand my knowledge in immunology and develop new technical skills in this new role.

I assist with general lab duties, maintain up-to-date databases and liaise with clinicians for blood and tissue samples and help with their processing. I am also currently working alongside Dr. Nathalie Schmidt on the HUNTER project looking to better understand the liver immunology in hepatocellular carcinoma and I help with general animal model work. 



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 Jessica Davies

I joined the group in March 2014 as a Research Technician after finishing my MSc in Infection and Immunity at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. 

I managed the laboratory stocks and databases and liaise with clinicians to obtain blood and liver samples from patients with chronic HBV infections.  I also worked with Dr Anna Schurich and Dr Kerstin Stegmann to investigate the role of CD8 T cells and NK cells in a mouse model of HBV, and with Dr Laura Pallett to study the role of tissue-resident T cells in the liver.


 Dr. Sabela Lens

I am a clinical specialist in the Liver Unit of Hospital Clínic, in Barcelona (Spain). I joined the Maini group in October 2019 after obtaining a postdoctoral permission for research purposes in my hospital. Whilst working as a clinician, mainly focused on viral hepatitis, I have developed a great interest in the immune response  during chronic viral infection and, in particular, during hepatitis B infection. 

Previous studies have reported that up to 20% of patients with chronic hepatitis B (CHB) may achieve functional cure (HBsAg loss) after nucleos(t)ide analog treatment withdrawal and around 60-70% may achieve sustained virological remission. I aim to analyze HBV-specific CD8 responses in parallel with peripheral and intrahepatic virological markers after treatment discontinuation in patients with HBeAg-negative (HBeAg-) CHB within a collaborative study between the Maini and Barcelona group lead by Dr. Xavier Forns. 

In addition, I will be studying the role of the B and T cell response early in childhood to better understand and characterize the natural history of vertical or early acquired chronic hepatitis B infection. 

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 Dr. Gloryanne Aidoo-Micah

I joined the Maini Lab in March 2020 on a CRUK-funded Clinical Research Training Fellowship.  This is after working as a clinician in Cancer Drug development at the UCL NIHR Early Phase Clinical Trials Unit.   

My PhD will focus on characterising the immune microenvironment of Hepatocellular Carcinoma in collaboration with the Hepatocellular Carcinoma Expediter Network (HUNTER). Specifically, I aim to analyse peripheral and intrahepatic HCC-specific CD8 responses and to understand the effects of immunotherapy on T cell responses. I hope this will contribute to identifying predictive biomarkers that will guide us in the accurate selection of patients for these novel therapies, as current response rates remain moderate. 

Besides this, I will maintain clinical duties in HCC clinic and the PRIMER-1 clinical trial with my co-supervisor Prof. Tim

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