skip to content


The immune system is the body's major defence against infection. However, an effective response against micro-organisms requires means to detect them. Thus a major issue in immunology is the study of how the body brings about this self- versus non-self discrimination or, as some would suggest, harmful versus non-harmful discrimination. This issue involves almost all the regulatory mechanisms within the immune system. The focus of this course is the molecular, cellular, and systems-level understanding of the immune system and how it has evolved to fight disease but also how causes pathology when not appropriately regulated. These principles and mechanisms can also be harnessed in the development of therapeutics that target infectious diseases, autoimmunity and cancer. The Division of Immunology has major research programmes in tumour immunology, antigen presentation reproductive immunology, innate immunity, and vaccinology. The Part II course in immunology reflects these research interests, as well as providing an up-to-date overview of the subject.


The Course

The course can be broadly divided into the following sections:

  • The molecular innate immune system: Structure and signalling mechanisms and outputs of pattern recognition receptors and MHC molecules. Antigen presentation to lymphocytes. The biology of cytokines and their receptors. The complement system.
  • Cells of the innate and adaptive immune system: The origin and function of T cells, B cells, natural killer cells, antigen-presenting cells. How these cells cooperate to mediate key immunological functions, such as antibody production and T cell activation. The cell biology of antigen presentation. Lymphoid architecture and lymphocyte recirculation. Lymphocyte activation and cell signalling.
  • Effector functions of the immune response: The molecules and cells involved in the recognition and killing of parasites, micro-organisms and virus-infected cells. The action of cytotoxic T cells and natural killer cells. How these effector functions can be used to make vaccines. Basic principles of transplantation biology and therapeutic approaches to control rejection.
  • Tolerance and autoimmune disease: The mechanism of tolerance induction; significance of central and peripheral tolerance. The key role of the thymus in T cell ontogeny and self-/nonself-discrimination. How tolerance breaks down to produce autoimmune disease. 
  • Tissue immunology: Mucosal immunity, neuroimmunology, immunity at the maternal/foetal interface. Cancer immunology and therapeutics.


Research Projects

The projects are usually based on the research interests of the teaching staff.
In addition to the projects within the Immunology Division of the Department of Pathology, some research projects are offered by other departments, e.g. The Laboratory of Molecular Biology, the Department of Medicine, The Veterinary School and the Cambridge Institute for Medical Research. These may include topics on lymphocyte signalling, structural immunology, viral and bacterial immunity, rheumatoid arthritis and transplantation biology.

Examples of Previous Projects 2020-2021

•    Investigating the role of Stard4 in immune cell steroidogenesis: Implications for identifying a new target for cancer immunotherapy
•    Effect of temperature on epigenetic mechanisms of innate immunity in bronchial epithelial cells
•    Translation control during bacteria: macrophage interaction
•    'Unravelling the transcriptomic signature associated with the education of uterine natural killer cells
•    Measuring CD4+ T cell cytotoxicity towards tumour
•    Structural investigation of MAVS-dependent viral RNA sensing 
•    Identifying the functional importance of microenvironmental neural interactions with ILCs in mucosal tissues
•    Investigating the role of tethered exosomes in MHC-II and CD1d presentation by epithelial cells 
•    The role of the GDF15 expression in heart inflammation
•    Assessing the use of oncolytic viruses to trigger ovarian cancer cell death
•    Exploiting Tumour Evolution to Understand the Epigenetic and Transcriptional Adaptations of Cancer to Host Immunity
•    Identification of morphological changes in the placenta of mice infected with various pathogens
•    Characterisation of a putative Caspase Recruitment Domain-containing innate immune protein 
•    Identifying new interaction partners of TAPBPR