My research interests are at the interface between immunology (how our body protects us from infection), allergy (when our immune system is overprotective and causes harm) and toxicology (adverse health effects caused by foreign materials). Allergy is an important disease affecting up to 1 in 10 individuals, and is increasing. Allergy is also the most frequent form of adverse health effect (toxicology) impacting on the immune system.
Small reactive chemicals can cause allergic reactions in skin or lung and some proteins can cause asthma or food allergy. The research goals are to understand why only some chemicals and proteins cause allergy, what drives the different types of allergic responses and the cells and molecules involved, including whether preferences for the type of allergic responses can be imprinted on the immune system. One example is whether the pattern of sugar molecules on proteins plays a key role in promoting an allergic response.
This research should lead to the development of new and improved methods for the identification and characterisation of allergens, and also provide information about which cells and molecules are important, providing opportunities for new treatments of immune and inflammatory diseases.
Independent Research Fellow inToxicology (Immunology Grouping), Faculty of Life Sciences
My first degree was Biochemistry (BSc 1st Class; 1980-1984) at Bath University, followed by a PhD in Immunochemistry at Southampton University with Professor George Stevenson focused on developing methods to enhance targetting and destruction of tumour (leukemia) cells by antibody. In 1988 I began my first Post Doc position at the ICI Central Toxicology Laboratory (CTL) at Alderley Edge (funded by Unilever) investigating the immunological mechanisms of allergic reactions caused by chemicals. Although CTL was an industrial laboratory, it had a very academic approach and commitment to basic research and as the company evolved from ICI, to Zeneca, to AstraZeneca and finally to Syngenta, I remained, expanding my role from Post Doc to Head of Immunology with a continued interest in mechanisms of allergic responses. With the closure of CTL, in October 2007 I relocated to the University of Manchester to join a new Toxicology grouping with continued interests in chemical and protein allergy, dendritic cell biology and inflammatory diseases.
In 2003 I was awarded "Young Investigator of the Year" by the Immunotoxicology Specialty Section of the Society for Toxicology and in 2004 I became a member of the Department of Health Committee on the Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment. I am on the editorial board of the journals "Food and Chemical Toxicology", "Toxicological Sciences" and "Biomarkers".