press release
Published: 03 October 2019

Ground breaking study into antibodies receives over £3m in funding

By Natasha Meredith

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council has announced a £3.44 million award to the University of Surrey, Kings College London (KCL) and University College London (UCL) to undertake a ground breaking investigation into antibodies.

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The team at Surrey, led by renowned scientist Professor Deborah Dunn- Walters, will receive over £1 million in funding to examine the changing function of antibodies.

Antibodies can be manufactured for use as diagnostic tools or therapeutic agents.  In nature they are produced by the immune system to target and attack dangerous pathogens in the body. Once bound to their target the antibodies can switch functions between nine different sub classes, known as Class Switch Recombination (CSR), which can affect how they operate. Recent research into Ebola and the ageing of the immune system has highlighted a lack of understanding of the process that determines which subclass is used by the antibody and how the different sub classes impact the immune system.  The production of effective antibodies in response to vaccine is critical in protecting people from infectious disease.

During this innovative study researchers will investigate what factors, both inside and outside the cell, control CSR. Using the flu vaccine, researchers will scrutinise the detailed dynamics of the human antibody response.   They will also use computer modelling of antibody structures to investigate the impact different sub classes can have on the efficacy of an antibody binding to its target.

Deborah Dunn - Walters, Professor of Immunology at the University of Surrey, said: “I am delighted that our team have received this award and look forward to working with colleagues at KCL and UCL. Knowledge gained from this study will have exciting implications for the design of new drugs and vaccines.”  

BBSRC’s Executive Chair, Professor Melanie Welham, said: “This investment continues our long-standing commitment to excellence in discovery research that has helped position the UK as a leading nation in bioscience.”

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