'FROM DISCOVERY TO RECOVERY'
My current research focuses on two principle but interrelated topics, the immunopathogenesis of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and the development of Sendai virus (SeV) as a vector.
RSV is the principle cause of severe lung disease in young infants. It is also associated with significant morbidity and mortality in the elderly and immunocompromised individuals. Despite its medical importance there are no vaccines or therapeutics available. Importantly, RSV infection does not lead to efficient longterm immune memory responses and re-infections are common throughout life. The mechanisms by which RSV causes disease are unclear, as are the means by which it circumvents the induction of immune memory. My group is currently developing unique ex-vivo/in-vitro models of RSV infection based on paediatric primary airway epithelial cells, the primary targets of RSV infection. In the simplest form, we exploit monolayers of primary epithelial cells. We have also developed the capacity to differentiate these cells into pseudo-stratified well-differentiated cultures that look and behave like respiratory epithelium in vivo. Both models provide important opportunities to study RSV/host interactions in physiologically relevant cultures. RSV also has the capacity to impede or circumvent innate and adaptive immune responses to infection, including type I interferon signalling and T cell proliferation. We are currently addressing these issues in appropriate in vitro and ex-vivo models.
SeV is a rodent virus and a close relative of human parainfluenza virus type 1 (hPIV1). Indeed, it has potential as a classical Jennerian vaccine against hPIV1. We have developed a reverse genetics system for SeV and have demonstrated the capacity to express heterologous genes from SeV, either as extra-numeral genes or bicistronic constructs in association with SeV genes. We are exploiting this technology to generate recombinant SeVs expressing either reporter genes or RSV antigens as a means to study SeV and RSV interactions with the immune system and ultimately generate novel vaccines against important respiratory viral pathogens.
I have acted as a grant reviewer for the following funding organisations:
US Army Research Office
Science Foundation Ireland
Health Research Board, Ireland
ANR BiothechS, France
Pôle des Technologies Santé, Montpéllier, France
Since arriving at Queen’s University Belfast in May 2004, research from my group has been presented at the following national and international conferences:
1. 13th International Conference on Negative Strand Viruses, June 17-22, 2006. Salamanca, Spain (2 abstracts).
2. Society for General Microbiology Spring meeting, March 26-29, 2007. Manchester, England. (1 abstract).
3. European Society for Clinical Virology, May 24-25, 2007. Lyon, France (invitated speaker).
4. 6th International RSV Symposium, Oct. 25-28, 2007. Marco Island, FL, USA. (2 abstracts).
5. Ulster Immunology Group/British Society for Immunology 50th Anniversary Symposium. Oct. 29, 2007. Belfast, Northern Ireland. (1 abstract) (conference organiser).
6. Society for General Microbiology Spring meeting, March 31-April 3, 2008. Edinburgh, Scotland. (1 abstract).
7. Irish Society for Immunology/Ulster Immunology Group Joint meeting, Sept. 15-16, 2008. Dublin, Ireland. (1 abstract).
8. XIV International Congress of Virology, Aug. 10-15, 2008. Istanbul, Turkey (3 abstracts).
9. Society for General Microbiology Spring meeting, March 30-April 2, 2009. Harrowgate, England. (1 abstract).
10. Ulster Immunology Group symposium, June 1-2, 2009. Belfast, Northern Ireland. (5 abstracts – 1 awarded best poster) (conference organiser; Session Chair).
12. Irish Society for Immunology annual meeting, Sept. 10-11, 2009. Dublin, Ireland (1 abstract; Session Chair; Poster Judge).
13. Society for General Microbiology Spring meeting, March 29-April 1, 2010. Edinburgh, Scotland. (1 abstract).
14. Ulster Immunology Group/Irish Society for Immunology Joint Meeting, Sept. 1-2, 2010. Belfast, Northern Ireland. (4 abstracts) (conference organiser; Session Chair).
15. EMBO Workshop – Viruses and Innate Immunity. May 5-7, 2010. Dublin, Ireland. (1 abstract; co-best poster prize);
16. 14th International Conference on Negative Strand Viruses, June 20-25, 2010. Bruges, Belgium (3 abstracts).
17. 7th International RSV Symposium, Dec. 2-5, 2010. Rotterdam, The Netherlands. (6 abstracts – 2 received special mention).
18. Society for General Microbiology Irish Brance Meeting, April 19-20, 2011. Belfast, Northern Ireland. (2 abstracts).
19. XV International Congress of Virology, Sept. 11-16, 2011. Sapporo, Japan (2 abstracts).
20. Northern Ireland Infection & Immunity Translational Research Group Away Day 2012. February 28, 2012. Belfast, Northern Ireland (3 abstracts, including runner-up poster prize).
21. Society for General Microbiology Spring meeting, March 26-29, 2012. Dublin, Ireland. (2 abstracts).
22. 8th International RSV Symposium, Sept. 26-30, 2012. Sante Fe, New Mexico, USA (2 abstracts).
23. Northern Ireland Infection & Immunity Tranlational Research Group Away Day 2013. March 7th, 2010. Belfast, Northern Ireland (2 abstracts).
24. Society for General Microbiology Spring meeting, March 25-28, 2013. Manchester, England (1 abtract).
25. 15th International Negative Strand Virus meeting, June 16-21, 2013. Granada, Spain (4 abstracts).
26. Irish Society for Immunology annual meeting, Sept. 12-13, 2013, Dublin, Ireland (1 abstract).
27. 13th International Workshop on Langerhans Cells, October 10-13, 2013. Amsterdam, The Netherlands. (1 abstracts).
28. 2014 AAAAI Annual meeting. February 28 – March 4, 2014. San Diago, CA, USA (1 abstract)
29. Society for General Microbiology Spring meeting, April 14-17, 2014. Liverpool, UK. (1 abstract).
30. 8th International RSV Symposium, Nov. 9-13, 2014. Stellenbosch, South Africa (4 abstracts).
31. 16th International Conference on Negative Stand Viruses, June 14-19, 2015. Siena, Italy (1 abstract).
32. 1st International Meeting on Respiratory Pathogens, Sept. 2-4, 2015. Furama RiverFront Singepore (1 abstract).
33. Irish Society for Immunology annual meeting, Sept. 17-18, 2015, Dublin, Ireland (2 abstracts, 1 received 2nd poster prize).
34. NI Infection & Immunity Translational Research Group Away Day, January 29, 2019, Belfast, Northern Ireland (4 abstracts).
35. Microbiology Society Annual conference, March 21-24, 2016, Liverpool, UK. (4 abstracts)
Total abstracts presented = 72