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Caitlin O'Brien-Ball is a Oxford-BMS Research Fellow in the CAMS Oxford Institute (Nuffield Department of Medicine). Here she discusses her project and benefits she has drawn from her experience so far as an Oxford-BMS Fellow.

What is your research background?

Caitlin O'Brien-Ball

I initially completed an undergraduate degree in Biomedical Sciences where I quickly developed an interest in immunology, which lead me to apply for a DPhil based at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine in the lab of Professor Simon Davis. During my studies there, I used fluorescence and super-resolution microscopy to study early signalling events in T and B cells, in particular, studying the stoichiometry of their immune receptors and the role of ZAP-70 in T cell interactions with model antigen presenting cells.

What are you researching now?

My current research in the RAF lab focusses on understanding PD-1 signalling in T cells, and how this might be modulated using new protein tools called RIPRs (receptor inhibition by phosphatase recruitment), which can specifically dephosphorylate surface receptors in a variety of cells. I will be testing how RIPR molecules work, how we can improve them, and how they might be used to prevent or reverse T cell exhaustion.

What has your experience of this Fellowship been like?

Its probably a bit too early to say yet!

What are your aspirations for the future of this research?

I believe that this research could potentially result in a novel biological immunotherapy making it to the clinic, which could improve treatment outcomes for patients with cancer. But even if it doesn't make it that far, we can use RIPRs to further increase our knowledge of important signalling pathways, not just in T cells but also many other cell types, and with many different receptors. The options are (theoretically at least) endless! 

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