Doreen Cantrell, Professor of Cellular Immunology at the University of Dundee’s School of Life Sciences, has been selected to join GSK’s Immunology Network. DDW’s Megan Thomas speaks to her about what this means for her career and the industry.
MT: Congratulations on joining GSK’s Immunology Network. Can you elaborate on what the programme does and what your involvement will be?
DC: The idea of this programme is to allow immunologists who are based in academia worldwide to form collaborations with the translational programs in GSK.
MT: What are you most excited about in joining the programme?
DC: The opportunity to share ideas about how to progress laboratory discoveries to new immunotherapies. I also like ‘problem solving’ and working with GSK scientists to really get deep knowledge about the mechanisms of action of new therapies is an exciting challenge.
MT: The academic immunologists on the programme will work alongside GSK’s scientists while pursuing their own independent research programmes. What is your research, and how will access to GSK’s technologies and research tools assist?
DC: My work explores the biochemistry of CD8 T cells, key effector cells of the adaptive immune response to viruses and cancer. The link to the insights of GSK scientists about key translational challenges is what is important here. Where is the unmet need?
MT: Which drug discovery and research fields are most impacted by an understanding of the complexities of immunology?
DC: The immune system determines our ability to respond to pathogens and to clear cancers. Our ability to develop effective vaccines is dependent on our understanding of how the immune system works. The pathology caused by autoimmunity has a huge impact on public health from inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, inflammatory gut disorders, asthma etc. There is also an increasing awareness of links between immune dysfunction and neurodegenerative diseases. Almost every drug discovery field can benefit from immunology research.
MT: The Immunology Network has an external board of advisors who come into GSK twice a year for Immunology Summits. What is the purpose of these summits?
It is all about bringing people the best minds in academia and immunology together and having diversity in thinking that allows for the most effective decision making.
Doreen Cantrell is the Professor of Cellular Immunology and Wellcome Trust Principal Research Fellow at the University of Dundee. She researches the development and activation T lymphocytes, which are key to immunological understanding.