I developed an interest in immunology during my Master’s course in Biomedicine at University College London, where I undertook a research project on improving a method for stem cell engraftment in the Molecular Immunology Unit. I was intrigued by the potential of immunotherapy to treat a range of diseases and my experiences convinced me to pursue a DPhil in the field of immunology.
I was aware that the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology pioneered immunotherapy using anti-TNFα for chronic inflammatory diseases. The award of a DPhil studentship from the Kennedy Trust gave me the opportunity to investigate the innate immune response through pattern recognition receptors in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis, under the guidance of Professor Claudia Monaco.
Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the blood vessels and is the primary cause of cardiovascular disease. Myeloid cells play a prominent role in the progression as well as regression of atherogenesis, and, therefore, identification of a key molecule that can switch myeloid cells towards a resolution state would be of great therapeutic importance.
Dendritic cell immunoreceptor (DCIR) is a C-type lectin receptor that is mainly expressed in the myeloid lineage. DCIR transduces inhibitory signals in the immune response during infection and chronic inflammation. Aberrant expression of DCIR contributes to the aetiology of several autoimmune diseases, indicating that DCIR plays an important role in the homeostasis of the immune system. My DPhil project aims to better understand how DCIR in myeloid cells orchestrates inflammation in atherosclerosis.
It has been a privilege to undertake research in a world leading institute which combines basic and clinical research in an effort to treat inflammatory and degenerative diseases. My work has benefitted from the open and collaborative ethos within the Kennedy Institute, together with access to state of the art facilities. In addition, the institute hosts a seminar series covering a breadth of research topics from internationally recognised scientists, which has given me a broader understanding outside of my research area.
The support and training provided during my DPhil programme has helped me to become a confident researcher and develop transferable skills that will be essential for my future career. It has been a pleasure to undertake my DPhil at the Kennedy Institute, where I can lead my work independently as well as receive great support from my supervisor and colleagues.