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Connor Sweeney is Clinical Research Fellow in the Radcliffe Department of Medicine. Here he discusses his project and benefits he drew from his experience as an Oxford-BMS Fellow.

Connor Sweeney

What is your research background?

I completed my medical degree in Oxford in 2010. During my postgraduate clinical training, I secured an Academic Clinical Fellowship that allowed me to develop an interest in laboratory research into acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). I am currently completing my DPhil with Professor Paresh Vyas in the Molecular Haematology Unit within the Radcliffe Department of Medicine. My Oxford-BMS Fellowship began in March 2021.

What are you researching now?

I am particularly interested in the immune control of AML following allogeneic stem cell transplantation, known as graft-versus-leukaemia (GvL). Despite being administered for over 50 years, our understanding of AML antigens that produce donor T cell responses following transplantation is very limited. I use next-generation sequencing and bioinformatic analysis to predict GvL antigens, which result from inherited different between a patient and their transplant donor.  Immunological assays are used to characterise the antigens and alloreactive T cells that recognise them.

What has your experience of this Fellowship been like?

Receiving an Oxford-BMS Fellowship has allowed me to appreciate research from the perspectives of both industry and academia. Although I am in the early stages of my Fellowship, discussing my application and the scientific aims of the project with BMS researchers has really strengthened the quality of work that is planned.

What are your aspirations for the future of this research?

Novel GvL antigens represent potential targets for anti-cancer immunotherapy. I hope that the identification and functional validation of antigen-specific T cell receptors will lead to the development of new treatments. Furthermore, the identification of GvL antigens may lead to improvements in donor selection for individual patients undergoing allogeneic stem cell transplantation, as donors could be selected that will produce a specific alloimmune response against leukaemia cells and therefore reduce relapse.