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Alexandra Spencer

Alexandra Spencer

Malaria development in mosquitoes

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 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 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, whilst testing the efficacy of these vaccines in various disease models. 

My research focuses on the type of T cell response induced following vaccination in terms of effector capacity (cytokines), phenotype (effector/memory) and organ specificity (Tissue resident T cells). I am also interested in 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 malaria parasites to investigate the underlying biology behind antigen processing and presentation from malaria-infected hepatocytes. The overall goal of my work is to identify more efficacious antigens and vaccination regimens which could be translated to the clinic.