Group Head / PI and Supervisor
African swine fever virus (ASFV)is a large DNA virus which causes a haemorrhagic fever with a high socio-economic impact in affected countries. The lack of a vaccine limits options for disease control. My group has focussed on research underpinning the development of effective vaccines. Our approach has been to determine genome sequences of isolates to help define the molecular determinants of virulence.
We have also studied the mechanisms by which ASFV evades host defences and have characterised ASFV proteins that inhibit host pathways involved in transcriptional activation of host immune response genes. These include proteins that inhibit NF-kB, calcineurin, interferon induction and stress-activated responses. This knowledge has been applied to the rational development of candidate live attenuated ASFV vaccines by targeted gene deletions.
In collaboration with Haru Takamatsu and Geraldine Taylor at Pirbright we have compared host responses in vitro and in vivo and induction of protective immune responses in pigs immunised with these gene manipulated and natural attenuated ASFV strains. We have also collaborated with these groups and The Jenner Institute to screen ASFV antigens for those important in induction of protective immunity, in particular those which induce strong CD8+ T cell responses.
This information will be applied to development of candidate virus-vectored vaccines. In addition I provide advice on ASFV nationally to DEFRA and internationally as an OIE expert and am Chair of the Asfarviridae Study Group of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses.