UoA 3 : Infection and Immunology at UCL

The Division of Infection and Immunity at UCL headed by Collins (Category A and C staff included in this return to UoA3 in bold) was established in 2003; it brings together research into 2 Departments, Immunology headed by Akbar and Infection, headed by Nigel Klein (key staff, returned by UCL to other UoAs, in italic). The Joint UCL Rheumatology Centre, has been affiliated to the Division of Infection and Immunity since its inception. The whole Infection, Immunity and Rheumatology grouping includes 47 Category A academic staff, of whom 37 are HEFCE or part-HEFCE funded academic staff and 10 are Wellcome Trust, MRC, arc and EU funded research fellows. 22 of these 47 academic staff have been recruited to UCL since the last RAE. During the RAE period, peer-reviewed grant income to this group has been over £38million, including 21 Programme grants and 19 Career Development or Senior Fellowships. The funding level per annum increases significantly between 2001 and 2003, which reflects the impact of the recruitment of Weiss and a number of young researchers in 1999-2000. It rises again between 2006 and 2007, reflecting the impact of EU FP6 funding and overseas funding from NIH and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Our mission is the study of human infectious and autoimmune disease, with an emphasis on those relevant to the patient populations we serve. From a better understanding of pathogen biology and the human immune system, we aim to translate our knowledge into improved diagnosis and treatment of diseases and to provide an outstanding research training environment. 

In order to enhance coherence and further integrate the research effort, a period of intense consultation culminating in a formal, international panel review (Chair: Sir Keith Peters) in 2005, resulted in the creation of a single Biomedical Faculty at UCL (Faculty of Biomedical Sciences - FBS). Composed of 13 thematically based research divisions, of which one is Infection and Immunity, the FBS thematic research programmes are aligned, where appropriate, with partner NHS Trusts. This international review identified Infection, Immunity and Inflammation research at UCL as a strong theme and particularly commended our success at linking research groups across the UCL campus. The appointment of Klein, whose own laboratory is based at Institute of Child Health (ICH, another of the 13 research Divisions, see UoA4) as Head of Department (HoD) has fostered close links with infection research at ICH, as has the appointment of Adrian Thrasher from ICH as joint Head of the Centre for Immunodeficiency within the Immunology Department. The Medical Research Council (MRC) selected UCL as its partner for the re-development of the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), because of complementary UCL biomedical and other research strengths and the co-location with UCLs excellence in social science, law, philosophy, mathematics and the physical, chemical and engineering sciences. Plans in development since 2004 will result in a new combined NIMR-UCL research institute in London. This provides an unprecedented opportunity to link our translational work in Infection, Immunity and Inflammation with the outstanding basic science on these topics at NIMR.

Infections are a significant clinical problem in the patient populations served by clinicians within Infection and Immunology. Local Health Centres provide primary health care to the increasing numbers of blood borne virus-infected patients who use injectable recreational drugs. Camden PCT has the highest HIV burden in the UK. UCL also hosts the MRC Clinical Trials Unit, which co-ordinates national and international trials of HIV therapies.  As tertiary referral centres the Royal Free Hospital (RFH) is one of seven Department of Health (DH) recognized liver transplant centers in the UK and the joint RF/ University College London Hospital (UCLH) bone marrow transplant programme is the largest in the UK. The RFH is also a national centre for the treatment of Common Variable Immune Deficiency (CVID), with a cohort of over 400 patients. The emphasis of research in infectious disease and immunology in the medical school is greatly influenced by this case mix, the cohorts of patients assembled for translational research, as well as by the links of the clinicians with commissioning agencies such as the DH, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) and the National Blood Service (NBS). This is reflected in the strong Infectious Diseases Theme (Lead: Pillay) within the successful bid for a UCLH/UCL Comprehensive Biomedical Centre (£80M over 5 years in total) within the DH NIHR framework. Translational research from Infection and Immunology also contributes significantly to the Cell and Gene Therapy and Long Term Conditions Themes.

The relationship between UCL and the Health Protection Agency has been strengthened by the appointment of Pillay (2/3 funded by HPA), within a formal collaboration addressing the biology and epidemiology of antiviral drug resistance. This encompasses academic work at UCL (three HPA-funded PhD students are hosted at UCL), national surveillance through the MRC CTU/UCL HIV gene sequence drug resistance databases, as well as co-ordination of Centre for Infections (HPA, Colindale) and UCL activities with regard to HIV and HBV.  Gillespie, the clinical microbiology academic lead, is also leader of Regional Services for the HPA. The HPA, Colindale and the Royal Free NHS Trust (Clinical Infectious Disease led by Johnson, NHS Consultant returned as Category C) are 2 highly-cited institutions for Infectious Diseases identified in the RAND report.

The Joint Centre for Rheumatology also aims to provide outstanding clinical research linked by a translational process to a strong basic science core.  Large cohorts of patients with the classic autoimmune rheumatic diseases, systemic lupus erythematosus,  rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren's syndrome, myositis, and anti-phospholipid antibody syndrome, have been established by Isenberg, and form the basis of both long-term observational studies and double-blind control trials trials at UCH. The paediatric unit at GOSH, led by Woo, is a national referral centre with the largest UK cohorts of paediatric and adolesecent patients with juvenile idiopathic arthritis, juvenile dermatomyositis, scleroderma, and primary vasculitides. These cohorts of patients are linked to active clinical and translational research programmes. These were part of a successful bid by GOSH to be a NHS specialist biomedical centre to perform in particular, phase I/II clinical trials. The seamless transition of patients from paediatric to adolescent and then adult care is one of the strong assets of the Joint Centre for Rheumatology. In addition, close collaborative links between GOSH and RFH are established to care for and carry out research on scleroderma from childhood to adulthood. At the RFH Black (returned as a Category C NHS employed researcher) developed the largest cohort of patients with scleroderma in the UK.

Our three main research themes are:

i. Medical Molecular Virology

ii. Bacteriology

iii. Immunology and Rheumatology

Download full text of the RA5a statement for Infection and Immunology (pdf 140Kb)

Staff names below link to submitted publications:

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Page last modified on 11 jan 08 10:27