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Alexandra Spencer

Dr, Senior Immunologist and Insectary Manager

While traditional vaccination with heat-killed or attenuated vaccines has proved highly effective against pathogens controlled by neutralising antibodies, no vaccine has yet been licensed against pathogens in which cell mediated immunity plays an important role. Viral vaccines have shown a remarkable capacity to induce and boost T cells responses and are therefore the primary focus for our development of vaccines against malaria, influenza and tuberculosis and more recently for emerging and re-emerging diseases.

Following completion of my PhD studies at the University of Sydney investigating the effect of antigenic competition on CD4+ T cell activation, I joined the Jenner Institute in 2006 to apply my knowledge of T cells to study the immune response induced by vaccination from viral vectored vaccines. Over the years I have investigated molecular adjuvants, vaccination regimens and alternative vaccine platforms for their ability to induce and boost the immune response and have tested the efficacy of these vaccines in various infectious disease models. 

My research primarily focuses on the type of T cell response induced in terms of effector capacity (cytokines), phenotype (effector/memory) and organ specificity (Tissue resident T cells) and understanding the role of antigen and inflammatory signals in the induction and maintenance of T cell responses. This is complemented by work using T cell based assay and transgenic parasite technology to investigate the underlying biology behind antigen processing and presentation from malaria-infected hepatocytes. All with the aim of identifying more efficacious liver-stage malaria antigens which could be translated to the clinic.