Gillian Griffiths is a cell biologist and immunologist who uses a variety of biochemical, imaging and genetic tools to study how the ‘killer’ cells of the body’s immune system fight off cancerous or infected cells. Her work opens possibilities for controlling these killer cells, which may lead to improved cancer therapies and strategies for relieving autoimmune diseases caused by the immune system mistakenly targeting healthy cells.
Through her research, Gillian has shown that immune cells use lysosomes — which normally act as the cell’s waste disposal system — as special secretory organelles to kill their targets; and that they are delivered through the docking of the centrosome at the interface between the ‘killer’ cell and its target.
In addition to being a Fellow of the Royal Society, Gillian was elected as a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2005 and as a member of EMBO (the European Molecular Biology Organisation) in 2006. She is currently the Director of the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research.
For establishing the fundamental cell biological mechanisms that drive cytotoxic T-cell killing, laying the foundations for informed application of cancer immunotherapy.