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Jon Austyn

MA, DPhil (Oxon)



Currently I am Professor of Immunobiology in the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences (NDS), Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) for NDS, and Director of the MSc taught course in Integrated Immunology at the University of Oxford.


Following my undergraduate degree in Biochemistry from the University of Oxford, in 1977 I joined the laboratory of Professor Siamon Gordon as his first graduate student in the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, Oxford. After the award of DPhil, I then worked from 1980 with the late Nobel laureate Professor Ralph Steinman, as his first postdoctoral fellow, at the Rockefeller University, New York.

 In 1983 I was appointed as Lecturer in Transplantation Immunology in NDS and, later, Reader in Immunobiology. In 1999-2000 I was Visiting Scholar to the Centenary Institute of Cancer Medicine and Cell Biology, Sydney, and in 2002 I was Visiting Professor at the University of Hong Kong.


For more than three decades, the research of my laboratory has focussed on the Immunobiology of dendritic cells (DC). These are the cells, first identified as such by Ralph Steinman, which play pivotal roles in the triggering and regulation of many types of immune response.

Soon after joining NDS, my colleagues and I were the first to visualise Langerhans cells (a type of DC) migrating out of skin grafts after transplantation, discovered the blood migration pathway for DC, and subsequently showed that DC migrate out of heart transplants into the spleen where they initiate transplant rejection. Later, my colleagues and I studied the interaction of various pathogens with DC, including tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBE), malaria and, more recently, HIV. We also initiated two clinical trials of DC-based vaccination against cancer, first in Oxford and then in Sydney, and I have recently coordinated a large EC Network of Excellence (DC-THERA) which aimed, in part, to develop this approach further.

Our current research is principally focussing on: (i) a novel family of tick-derived molecules which modulate the activity of DC and which may have therapeutic potential for treatment of autoimmune diseases, for example; and (ii) the surprisingly predictable immunological properties of a large family of inorganic crystalline materials, called layered double hydroxides, which we believe may have the potential to be incorporated as ‘designer’ adjuvants into intelligent vaccines against cancer and infectious diseases. We are currently, though Isis Innovation Ltd., the technology transfer arm of the University of Oxford, seeking investment into these two projects from the pharmaceutical sector.


In 2004, Professor Helen Chapel and I established the MSc Integrated Immunology course which I now direct, and I have also designed and delivered undergraduate courses in immunology over many years. In 2005 I was awarded a Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching and Learning with Distinction, and have recently received a University teaching award to undertake a feasibility study into a new part-time, distance learning course in Integrated Immunology.