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Research Fellows Directory

Andrea Cooper

Professor Andrea Cooper

Research Fellow


University of Leicester

Research summary

Vaccination is a powerful tool against disease and effectively eradicated smallpox. However development of vaccines against diseases such as tuberculosis (TB) has stalled. TB has a significant impact on world health and represents a massive burden on global resources. Those who are infected but show no sign of disease are thought to represent a third of the world’s population. The sheer size of this population makes understanding the infection process very difficult to achieve, in addition it is increasingly evident that people who are infected represent a continuum of health ranging from no disease to incipient unrecognized disease. While it is clear that white blood cells called CD4 T cells are critical for survival during TB, infection results in a very strong CD4 T cell response which does not however result in elimination of the infection. We do not currently understand exactly how the body controls TB and this limits our ability to manipulate the immune response to prevent infection and disease. Plainly speaking we do not know what we want a vaccine to do and cannot therefore rationally design such a vaccine. The goal of my program is to define the nature of the CD4 T cell response to TB and to work out how to manipulate the immune response to make the best response possible. We think that extensive co-evolution of TB and humans has resulted in exquisite manipulation of the human immune response by the infection. While infection is established quickly within the lung, the immune response is very slow to recognize the bacteria and by the time the protective CD4 T cells arrive in the lung, inflammation has occurred and this locally limits expression of immunity. We hypothesize that the level and type of inflammation encountered by the CD4 T cell will impact the capacity of the T cell to function and that we can generate CD4 T cells via vaccination which are capable of persisting and functioning within the inflammatory site generated by the invading bacterium.

Grants awarded

Determining the factors impacting expression of immunity in the lung

Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards

Dates: Sep 2015 - Aug 2020

Value: £50,000