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Department of Pathology

Project: Innate immune signalling, anti-viral immunity, vaccinology


Ferguson Research

The lab’s research projects are focused around understanding how our cells sense and respond to virus infection and how this impacts innate and adaptive immunity: 

1) The innate immune response to DNA.

Pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) directly recognise pathogen- or danger-associated molecular patterns. Nucleic acids are a powerful immunostimulatory agents that triggers PRRs to warm of infection or tissue damage. Our innate immune system has evolved multiple mechanisms to respond to the presence of abnormally structured or mis-localised DNA and RNA. We are exploring the molecular mechanisms of innate immune nucleic acid sensing and is physiological consequences across multiple species.

Nucleic acid sensing by intracellular PRRs has a particular importance in triggering the initial type I and type III interferon responses in response to virus infections. Our lab is interested to understand how different nucleic acid sensing PRRs impact on host defence against a range of DNA and RNA viruses.

2) Cell death in innate immunity

The role of cell death in anti-viral defence is well establised, although its function in activating anti-viral immunity is less clear. By analysing signalling pathways that control the switch between pro-inflammatory gene activation and cell death we can probe the consequences of viral-induced cell death in anti-viral defence. We are specifically interested in the role of linear ubiqiutin chains in regulating these processes and how they regulate nucleic acid sensing mechanisms.

3) Vaccinology

There are many fundamental questions about the development of immunological memory which remain poorly understood. It is clear that the initial detection of a vaccine vector by the innate immune system has long lasting consequences for the development of memory responses. We are developing systems to analyse how and where the initial triggers of long lasting memory occur.

Post-doctoral research associates:
Dr Marisa Oliveira

PhD students:
Ms Helena Teague
Ms Dayana Hristova
Ms Emma Wagner
Mr Rahul Singh
Ms April D'Arcy



Key publications: 
University Associate Professor in Innate Immunity
Division of Immunology
Dr Brian  Ferguson

Contact Details

Department of Pathology
University of Cambridge
Tennis Court Road
+44 (0)1223 333730 / 33352
Takes PhD students
Available for consultancy