Prof Greg Towers
Our work aims to understand the molecular details of host virus interactions. We focus on human immunodeficiency virus type 1, the cause of AIDS in humans, but we also study other primate lentiviruses expecting comparing viruses from different species to be informative. Currently, a favorite question is How does the HIV-1 capsid regulate encapsidated DNA synthesis to evade innate immune nucleic acid sensors? We also study other viruses, particularly flaviviridae and Hepatitis B virus, which we hypothesise cloak their replication from innate sensors in a similar way to HIV-1. We study host virus interactions because we believe that the new knowledge we find will be valuable in many ways. For example, we expect that a more detailed understanding of host virus interactions will help us to drug viral infection experimentally and therapeutically. We are developing three series of novel inhibitors of viral infection that manipulate viruses’ ability to hide from innate immune pattern recognition receptors. We also aim to use our understanding of innate immune control of HIV-1 to develop novel gene therapy based approaches to treat HIV-1 infection and to improve the utility of current HIV based gene delivery systems.
We believe that viruses are very good cell biologists and by working out how they interact with their hosts we will discover new understanding of host cell processes. Thus, we believe that one cannot truly appreciate the relationship between host and virus without a sound understanding of evolution. This is best illustrated by Lee Van Valen’s Red Queen hypothesis, which suggests that host and pathogen are locked in a genetic conflict in which both host and virus are obliged to continually evolve with each alternately gaining and losing the advantage. Understanding this process promises to enable prediction of zoonosis and pandemicity.
We also study host virus interactions because it is a very competitive and well-funded area of research that is really good fun to work in.
Dr Rich Miles
Dr Lucy Thorne
Dr Morten Govasli Larsen
I am a biochemist with experience in recombinant protein production, and structural biology using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR) supported by multiple biophysical techniques. I am employing these methods to investigate the relationship between primate lentiviruses and their cofactors. A key goal is to understand whether cofactor interactions differ between different primate lentiviruses and whether comparative virology can help us understand cofactor function. I'm also keen to understand the molecular mechanisms of capsid inhibitors and the role of cofactor binding in the inhibitory process.
Dr Doug Fink
I am currently an NIHR academic clinical lecturer at LSHTM. I completed a Wellcome Trust funded PhD in the Towers lab in 2019. I also work in the NHS as an infectious diseases doctor. My PhD thesis sought to characterise the modulation of innate immune signalling by lentiviral accessory protein vpx. In my post-doctoral work I am collaborating with the Towers lab to develop observations from my PhD relating to epigenetic regulation of endogenous retroelements and innate immunity. In parallel I am committed to developing clinical and research infrastructure in low and middle income settings. I have a long-standing collaboration with the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research in Lagos studying non-communicable disease in people living with HIV. I teach on both the London and East African Diplomas of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, besides undergraduate and postgraduate programmes at LSHTM and UCL. I am heavily involved with BHIVA and am chair of the International Partnership working group.
Dr John Walter
Resident Artist in Infection
Dr John Walter is an artist and academic working in a diverse range of media that includes drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, digital imaging, video, performance and installation. His PhD 'Alien Sex Club: Educating audiences about continuing rates of HIV transmission using art and design' addressed HIV as a crisis of representation for visual art. He won the Hayward Curatorial Open in 2016 for 'Shonky: The Aesthetics of Awkwardness', which toured from The MAC Belfast to DCA Dundee and Bury Art Gallery and Sculpture Centre. His collaboration with Greg Towers on 'CAPSID' is supported by a Wellcome Trust Large Arts Award. His work as artist in residence in the lab has resulted in over 250 artworks, which form an exhibition at CGP London and HOME Manchester along with a monograph published by HOME.
Dr Maorong Xie
Dr Ethel Owusu
The innate immune system protects cells from infections and cancer. Cancers can be triggered by infection, perhaps when viruses manipulate these defensive system, leading to their failure and therefore failure to protect from cancer. My work seeks to explain the relationship between infection and cancer through comparing RNAseq data from cancers and infections. We hope that this comparison will give us clues as to how viruses manipulate innate immunity, how innate immunity protects us from cancer or fails when cancer arises. We hope the this work will help us better understand the immune response to disease and the relationship between infection and tumour development.
Dr Sophie Ridewood
Dr Chris van Tulleken
I undertook my PhD in the Towers lab working on lentiviral Vpr proteins. I am now working as an infection doctor at UCLH and an occasional science presenter for the BBC often with the help of the Towers lab. I maintain links with the Towers lab through my position as a Honorary Senior Lecturer at UCL. I’m still on the Vpr team and help on the lab's wide ranging outreach projects.
Dr Rob Lever