Oxford Professor to direct MRC Human Immunology Unit
20 July 2010
Professor Vincenzo Cerundolo has been appointed as the new director of the MRC Human Immunology Unit (HIU) at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
Prof Cerundolo is Professor of Immunology at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (WIMM) at the University of Oxford and was formerly Associate Director of the Human Immunology Unit (HIU). He took over the prestigious role on 1 July, following the retirement of former director Professor Andrew McMichael.
The HIU, which is based at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, is a key player in international efforts to combat the threat of increasing globalisation of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and avian flu. Most recently the unit has been involved in research towards the development of a vaccine for swine flu, but it also carries out vital research into other diseases involving the immune system such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
On his appointment, Prof Cerundolo said:
“I am delighted to have been appointed the new Director of the HIU and am committed to make a success of this opportunity. The HIU provides a distinct set of programmes and skills that have acted as a crucial strategic focus for human immunology not only in Oxford, but also at national and international levels. By taking basic immunological discoveries and translating them for patients, the HIU has created a thriving critical mass of scientists and clinical scientists with diverse skills in diverse disease areas, such as cancer, infectious diseases, neuroscience, gastroenterology and dermatology.
For the past 15 years, Prof Cerundolo has studied the immune response to melanoma (skin cancer) and how vaccination strategies can be improved to help the immune system fight cancer. He discovered that activating immune system cells called NKT cells can be used to ‘jump start’ the immune response to cancer and viral infection. The knowledge derived from his studies is being fed into the development of a cancer vaccine programme in melanoma patients.
Discussing how he feels to be stepping into the shoes of Professor McMichael, Prof Cerundolo says:
“While it will not be easy to follow on from Andrew, his legacy and charismatic and visionary leadership will inspire me and the future of the HIU. I am committed to build on the foundations laid by him.”