Institute of Immunology & Infection

Research in the Institute for Immunology and Infection encompasses immunology, parasite biology, parasite immunology and the RNA biology of infection.

Institute of Immunology & Infection

We share extensive links and research collaborations with our sister Institutes of Evolutionary biology and Cell Biology within the school of Biological Sciences. Our focus is on human, animal and global health and our researchers are fully integrated within the University-wide Edinburgh Infectious Diseases network. The excellence of our research culture is recognised through our Wellcome Trust PhD programme ‘Hosts, Pathogens and Global Health’, which closely links with the allied Wellcome PhD programmes, ‘One Health Models of Disease’ (hosted within the Roslin Institute) and ‘Integrative Cellular mechanisms’ (hosted within the Wellcome Centre for Cell Biology). Our Global Health activity is underpinned by the NIHR TIBA (Tackling Infections for the Benefit of Africa) Unit.

Research topics

The research of principal investigators in Immunology and Infection encompasses four overlapping topics of study:

Fundamental immunology

Fundamental Immunology research centres around how B and T lymphocytes interact and develop in response to antigen challenge, how responses are initiated by dendritic cells and dampened by regulatory cells.

Specific interests include surface receptors and ligands involved in intercellular communication within the immune system, and the analysis of the role of each molecular and cellular component over time in vivo.

Immune regulation of disease

Studies on the Immune Regulation of Disease combine research into autoimmunity and parasite immunology. We study immune evasion by long-lived parasite pathogens (such as filarial nematodes), as well as the factors controlling immune pathologies such as autoimmune diseases and allergy.

Projects aim to design immunological interventions to ameliorate pathology or to enhance host immunity, in conjunction with new vaccines against parasites.

The Molecular Biology and Genetics of Parasites is a major interest, with several laboratories in the Malaria Group focussing on defined antigens in malaria parasites. These antigens present potential for new vaccines, and complement a long-standing interest in protozoan genetics.

Trypanosome molecular biology aims to understand cell cycle control and differentiation with a view to novel drug development.

The molecular biology of helminth parasites (worms) is also under study in Immunology and Infection.

Host-pathogen population biology

Host-Pathogen Population Biology is an important stream of activity, which bridges from conventional immunology and pathogen research into systems-level quantitative biology.

This field is rapidly growing, in the wake of demonstrating the interaction between, for example, vaccination and the emergence of pathogen virulence.

Each of these areas has a long history of Research in Ashworth Laboratories.

These four strands are closely interlinked within Immunology and Infection and also have firm connections with other research specialities on the Edinburgh scene.