6th July 2010
Vincenzo Cerundolo, Professor of Immunology at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (WIMM) at the University of Oxford, has been appointed the new Director of the Medical Research Council (MRC) Human Immunology Unit.
Prof. Cerundolo, who is known as Enzo, takes over the prestigious role of Director from the eminent immunologist Prof. Andrew McMichael, who is to retire. Enzo is currently Associate Director of the Human Immunology Unit (HIU,) Honorary Consultant in the Department of Medical Oncology and Co-Head of the Experimental Medicine Division of the Nuffield Department of Medicine.
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.
Enzo is thrilled to be taking on his new role: "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 into 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. "
He added: It is my intention to ensure that the HIU will become a crucial pillar of a broader Oxford Immunology Centre, encompassing all of the immunology programmes in Oxford, and will operate as a hub for scientists and clinical scientists working in the context of experimental medicine and focusing on the issues of immunology and disease."
Enzo's main research interest is in understanding the cell to cell interactions in the immune system that ultimately result in the expansion and activation of tumour-specific T cell populations. Understanding the mechanisms by which tumours impair effective tumour-specific immune responses, and identifying strategies by which to harness the cross-talk between the innate and adaptive arms of the immune system is pivotal to the development of more effective cancer vaccination strategies.
He says "In recent years the focus of my work has been on developing methods of ‘harnessing' cells of the innate immune system to ‘jump-start' the immune response to tumour antigens." The knowledge derived from these studies is contributing to the development of a cancer vaccine programme in melanoma patients, work that is supported by several national and international funding bodies including the MRC, Cancer Research UK, the Wellcome Trust, the US Cancer Research Institute and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research.
So how does he feel about stepping into the shoes of Professor McMichael? Enzo 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."