BSc (Hons), PhD
Professor of Molecular Immunology
T-cell Biology Group
My laboratory is striving to understand how lymphocyte receptors are triggered, including the immune checkpoints. My PhD studies on Dictyostelium developmental biochemistry, also at Flinders, were supervised by John Wheldrake. It had been John who suggested, in one of his undergraduate classes, that all biochemistry students should read 'The Double Helix' by JD Watson. I read it and learnt two things: the thrill of discovery and that, when it really counts, it's not about where you're from but simply a matter of how good your ideas are versus the next person's. Under John's influence I developed an abiding interest in the cell surface and became particularly impressed by the pioneering work of Alan Williams and Neil Barclay on the T-cell surface at the UK Medical Research Council (MRC) Cellular Immunology Unit in Oxford. During a brief stint in California at UC San Diego as a visiting student in the laboratories of Hud Freeze and Ajit Varki, I became aware of the power of molecular biological techniques and the need to do medically-oriented research as a long-term career strategy.
In 1987 I secured a post-doctoral position in Alan William's laboratory and thereafter was able to focus on T-cell surface biology myself. Neil had begun introducing into the laboratory approaches for the production of large amounts of high-quality protein for structural and functional studies, and I was the first beneficiary of this. Collaborations with Shinji Ikemizu, Yvonne Jones, Dave Stuart and, in particular, Anton van der Merwe, were subsequently critical to our work. In 1995 I established my own laboratory in what is now the Radcliffe Department of Medicine, and I am now based at the MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, which is led by Professor KJ Patel. I am also a member of the MRC Translational Immune Discovery Unit, directed by Alison Simmons.