Infection, immunity and inflammation

The aim of this programme is to transfer novel concepts in infection, immunity and inflammation research into new diagnostic tools and therapeutic interventions for the local and global patient population.

This programme brings together researchers, clinicians, nurses, patients and regulatory experts to:

  • Develop novel immune interventions to treat disease
  • Improve the prevention and control of infection
  • Implement new therapies for inflammatory conditions
  • Establish next generation diagnostics underpinning personalised medicine

This programme has four workstreams:

  1. Institute of Immunology and Transplantation (IIT) at the Royal Free Campus
  2. Bloomsbury Research Institute (BRI)
  3. Development of biomarkers, biologic therapies and drug discovery
  4. Establish the UCLPartners TB network

Institute of Immunology and Transplantation (IIT)

A major goal of the IIT is to use the immune system for the development new biological therapies to improve patient health. The IIT is amongst the world leaders in the clinical application of cell and gene therapy to treat patients with cancer, chronic infection, inherited immune defects, bleeding disorders and rare skin diseases such as scleroderma. The partnership between UCL and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust links exceptional research of the human immune system and outstanding clinical programmes with well-characterised cohorts of patients. The potential clinical benefits of cell and gene therapy as ‘live medicines’ provide opportunities for collaborative working with the biotech and pharma industry to accelerate clinical trials of novel immunotherapies.

Progress to date

Phase I of the IIT, completed in 2013, has provided newly refurbished research and clinical space which enabled the appointment of 10 new senior and junior group leaders in immunology research. Its success was the basis for successful application for the government funded HEFCE UKRPIF award, which together with funding from the Royal Free Charity, Pears Foundation and Wolfson Foundation provides approximately £ 55 million to deliver in 2018/19 the state of the art Pears building which will accommodate over 200 IIT scientists and academic clinicians.

Bloomsbury Research Institute (BRI)

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and UCL are working together to create a centre of excellence in the heart of London for world leading research into infectious disease. This research facility will bring together more than 200 scientists to find new treatments, vaccines and diagnostics for prevention and control of infectious diseases. It will also contribute to the international effort to address antimicrobial resistance, a key priority for the World Health Organization and Government.

Progress to date

In 2015, the Higher Education Funding Council for England awarded a grant of £7.5 million for the development of the BRI and Professor Sharon Peacock CBE was appointed as the institute’s first director.

Development of biomarkers, biologic therapies and drug discovery

The aim of this workstream is to build on and leverage existing strengths across UCLPartners to advance and accelerate research inflammation and fibrosis in chronic inflammatory and autoimmune conditions, as well as cardiovascular and cancer (Liver and Respiratory disease, amyloidosis, scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus & Crohn’s disease).

Development of the UCLPartners Inflammation Network is key to this workstream. This network aims to develop a cluster of research and clinical excellence across UCLPartners. As a result of producing world leading inflammation research, the network aims to bridge the gap between early scientific discovery and translation into new medicines, enhancing commercial enterprise and improving patient care.

Progress to date

The UCL Inflammation, Tissue Repair, Scarring & Fibrotic Diseases (FLARRE) consortium has been established and linked to the Queen Mary University of London’s inflammation strategy to promote investigation, invention and collaboration with industry in inflammation, tissue repair, scarring & fibrotic diseases.  Several industrial collaborations have also been established, supporting the development of methods for patient stratification of disease for personalised medicines and novel clinical trials.

Set up and establish the UCLPartners TB network

The aim of the UCLPartners TB network is to facilitate collaboration and enable the development of shared approaches to clinical, translational and population research. Specifically, the network will:

  • Support the establishment of a cohort of TB patients with associated clinical annotation. Patient samples will be tested using novel technologies that enable a better understanding of TB mycobacteria and the host response.  A defined patient cohort will form the basis of observational studies, as well as clinical trials.
  • Develop a pilot study supported by the UCL/UCLH Biomedical Research Centre that uses cutting edge TB diagnostics to investigate the variability in mycobacterial strains present in sputum compared to that found when the sample is cultured and a predominant strain grows up.
  • Use novel and personalised approaches to improve individual and public health outcomes for TB patients across London, the UK, and internationally.

Progress to date

The new TB network has been established. Commitment and funding for an initial roll out have been secured from the NIHR Health Informatics Collaborative. This network will standardise TB data collection across UCLPartners.