From developing new approaches to vaccination against tuberculosis, to learning about how tobacco plants can be used for growing drugs in the developing world, researchers in the Infection and Immunity Research Institute explained what they’ve been up to.

 Professor Julian Ma

The annual Institute for Infection and Immunity tour gave staff the opportunity to meet the researchers working on a range of projects, including the new ways in which tuberculosis is being tackled.

The Institute’s research strengths include antibiotic resistance, tackling global infectious diseases, innovative vaccine development, plus international activities.

Tobacco plants

Tobacco plants in the plant growth facilities are being developed to fight against diseases such as HIV, Ebola, rabies, dengue and Chikungunya virus.

Professor Julian Ma explained how using plants such as tobacco as production hosts for pharmaceutical proteins can help treat and prevent diseases that are of major concern in developing countries.

High containment laboratories

High containment “CAT III” laboratories are used for experimental work involving dangerous pathogens, such as HIV and TB.

Researchers revealed state-of-the-art equipment used for whole genome sequencing. Currently housed in the bacterial genomics research area, the equipment is having an enormous impact on patient management in the Trust and in new vaccine studies worldwide.

Tuberculosis and cell immunity

Principal investigator, Professor Derek Macallan’s research investigates the production of immune cells within the body.

Keeping the right number and type of immune cells in the right place at the right time is essential to good health. If there are not enough, infections can get out of control; too many, and the immune system can cause damage to the body. Keeping the balance right is called ‘immune homeostasis’. The researchers are studying how this is achieved by tracking cells when they divide and when they die. The goal is to better understand how the body maintains a stable internal environment.

Dr Rajko Reljic shared his development in finding new approaches to vaccination against TB, while Dr Jason Hinds explained how he develops sensitive techniques to differentiate between closely related variants of bacteria. Professor Tom Harrison spoke about his work in Africa on cryptococcal meningitis.

Dr Amina Jindani spoke about developing drug treatments to simplify treatment for TB, while Dr Blair Strang discussed vital work on antiviral therapeutics for human cytomegalovirus. Dr Kai Hilpert explained his work to design antimicrobial peptides against infections.

Professor Ma said: “Thanks to all those who came to see us in the Institute. We enjoyed meeting you and explaining our research to you.”