Speakers 2019


Alicia Sanchez-Mazas, Professor, University of Geneva, Switzerland

Alicia Sanchez-Mazas (PhD in 1990) is full Professor and head of the Anthropology Unit of the Department of Genetics and Evolution at the University of Geneva, where she teaches and conducts research projects on human populations’ genetic diversity, with a special focus on the genes of the major histocompatibility complex HLA in relation to the peopling history of modern humans worldwide. Since 1996 she coordinates HLA population data analyses at the International Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics Workshops (IHIWS) where she was nominated Councillor in 2008. In 2009-2012 she chaired the EU-funded HLA-NET COST Action that set up the hla-net.eu bioinformatics platform. Since 2013 she leads the Population Genetics Working Group of the European Federation for Immunogenetics (EFI) which organises regular Open Meetings at EFI Conferences, and since 2015 she is Section Editor for the journal “HLA – Immune Response Genetics” (John Wiley & Sons A/S). She currently leads the Population Genetics, Anthropology and Evolution Component of the 18th IHIW Workshop that will be held in Amsterdam in 2021. During the last years, she extended her research interests to the molecular evolution of HLA genes in relation to environmental factors and human diseases. Her publication record counts more than a hundred peer-reviewed articles. She also co-edited two books (Routledge) on the peopling of East Asia and one special volume (Human Heredity) on the genetic diversity of European populations. Her current research project focuses on the HLA molecular diversity of African populations in relation to African peopling history and associations to infectious diseases.


Jamie Rossjohn, FAA FAHMS FLSW FMedSci, Australian Research Council (ARC) Laureate Fellow

Professor Rossjohn’s research is centred on understanding the processes that control infection and immunity, specifically host recognition, responses developed by the pathogen and therapeutic development to modulate and/or counteract these events.

He is currently an ARC Australian Laureate Fellow (2017-2021) and was previously a NHMRC Australia Fellow (2011-2016) and ARC Federation Fellow (2007-11). He is the Head of the Infection and Immunity Program of the Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash university.

Professor Rossjohn is known for his contributions to the understanding the molecular basis underpinning immunity. He has used structural biology to explain pre-T-cell receptor (TCR) self-association in T-cell development, and how the TCR specifically recognises polymorphic Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) molecules in the context of viral immunity and aberrant T-cell reactivity. He has unearthed structural mechanisms of HLA polymorphism impacting on drug and food hypersensitivities, as well as Natural Killer cell receptor recognition. He has pioneered our molecular understanding of lipid-based immunity by T cells, revealing that it can differ fundamentally from peptide-mediated adaptive immunity. Recently he has provided a structural basis of how vitamin B metabolites can be presented and recognised by the immune system, revealing a new class of antigen. Collectively, he has published more than 365 papers and mentored numerous researchers towards obtaining higher degrees and nationally competitive fellowships.

Jonathan Barratt]

Jonathan Barratt, The Mayer Professor of Renal Medicine & Honorary Consultant Nephrologist, University of Leicester

Professor Jonathan Barratt leads the Renal Research Group within the College of Life Sciences, University of Leicester and supervises a 20 strong laboratory and clinical research team comprising 4 postdoctoral scientists, a non-Clinical Lecturer, a NIHR Clinical Lecturer, NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow, 2 technicians, 4 PhD students, a research manager, 6 research nurses and 5 research associates. In the past 5 years he has been awarded £4.2M of funding as PI for research in the pathogenesis of IgA nephropathy and generated £1M of income from clinical studies. JB is the IgA nephropathy Rare Disease Group lead for the UK National Registry of Rare Kidney Diseases (RaDaR) and a member of the steering committee for the International IgA Nephropathy Network. He works closely with a number of pharmaceutical companies interested in new treatments for IgA nephropathy. He is Chief Investigator for a number of international randomised controlled clinical trials in IgA nephropathy, has attended both the FDA and EMA as an advisor for new therapies in IgA nephropathy, and is a member of the FDA and American Society of Nephrology Kidney Health Initiative: Identifying Surrogate Endpoints for Clinical Trials in IgA Nephropathy Workgroup.

Louise Boyle

Dr Louise Boyle, Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow, University of Cambridge

PLouise Boyle graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a BSc (hons) in Biological sciences. In 2001, she completed her doctoral studies on T cell responses in patients with arthritis at the Department of Medicine, University of Cambridge.  Having developed a keen interest in the biology of major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules, she undertook her post-doctoral training with Professor John Trowsdale at the Cambridge Instititue of Medicine Research. In 2009, Louise was awarded a Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellowship to explore the function of TAPBPR in the MHC class I antigen processing and presentation pathway.  She is currently a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow and University lecturer at the Department of Pathology, University of Cambridge.

Robert Lechler

Professor Sir Robert Lechler, Senior Vice-President (Health) at King’s College London, Executive Director of King’s Health Partners and President of the Academy of Medical Sciences. 

Robert Lechler is currently Senior Vice-President (Health) at King’s College London, Executive Director of King’s Health Partners and President of the Academy of Medical Sciences.  He is a strong advocate of the Academic Health Science Centre model of university-healthcare partnerships. His clinical and research career have been focused on the pursuit of clinical transplantation tolerance. He worked in in vitro and in vivo rodent models and recently has helped to define biomarkers of clinical tolerance which has led to first in man trials of cell therapy to promote immune tolerance in recipients of kidney and liver organ transplants. He has published over 200 papers in this field.  In addition, Robert is a Founding Board Member of MedCity, a Board Member of the Crick Institute and the HCA Advisory Board and a member of the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology.

Dr Venetia Bigley, Clinical Senior Lecturer and Consultant Haematologist, Newcastle University/Newcastle NHS Foundation Trust Hospitals

Dr Bigley is a Wellcome Intermediate Clinical Fellow and Clinical Senior Lecturer in the Institute of Cellular Medicine with research interests spanning haematology and immunology. She also practices as an honorary consultant haematologist at Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (Freeman Hospital), specialising in haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (bone marrow transplantation), with a particular interest in adult primary immunodeficiency disorders.

Dr Bigley completed a degree in Natural Sciences at Cambridge University before turning to medicine, studying again in Cambridge and at University College London.  After junior doctor training in London, she completed specialist haematology training in the Northeast, and studied for a PhD at Newcastle University. She was awarded her doctorate and appointed as a consultant in 2011.


Research: As one of two Principle Investigators in the Human Dendritic Cell Laboratory, Dr Bigley leads a group working to map the cellular pathways and genetic control of dendritic cell (DC) haematopoiesis, the genetic causes of DC primary immunodeficiency and the immunological consequences of these disorders. The group has also pioneered methods to probe the phenotype and function of human monocytes and DCs in clinical samples.

Clinical Practice: This immunological approach to haematology is reflected in her clinical practice, leading the bone marrow transplant service for adults with primary immunodeficiency in Newcastle, renowned for its paediatric PID transplant services. The adult service is run in collaboration with Newcastle paediatric immunology at the Great North Children's Hospital, Great Ormond Street Hospital and The Royal Free Hospital, London.


Professor Mark Vickers, Professor of Applied Medicine and Honorary Consultant Haematologist

Mark Vickers is a Haematologist who qualified in Medicine in 1983. After general medical jobs in London and an MRC Fellowship with Doug Higgs in Oxford on genes surrounding the alpha-globin gene cluster, he trained in Haematology at the Hammersmith, Reading and John Radcliffe Hospitals (1990– 1996). He moved to Aberdeen in 1996.

His student elective comprised an abortive attempt to clone the spectrin gene at Yale. His research in Aberdeen has been eclectic / disorganised, and has included modelling mutation accumulation in stem cells to understand the age specific incidence of leukaemias, genetic associations of thrombotic disorders, the immunology of lymphomas, haemolytic anaemias and infection by Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection, and most recently how red blood cells signal that they should be removed from the circulation, which turns out to involve spectrin.

But it also includes the use of cytotoxic lymphocytes directed against EBV in post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorders.

Daniel Gale

Dr Daniel Gale, St Peter’s Associate Professor of Nephrology, UCL Department of Renal Medicine, Royal Free Hospital

Dr Daniel Gale undertook medical training at Cambridge University and moved to London for postgraduate training in nephrology. He is St Peter’s Associate Professor and Head of the Centre for Genetics and Genomics of the University College London Department of Renal Medicine, where he runs a research group aiming to improve understanding of the causes and mechanisms of genetic kidney disease. He leads the multidisciplinary renal genetics service for North/Central London, which receives referrals from across the country and provides specialist care for families with hereditary kidney problems including complement disorders, polycystic kidney disease, Alport syndrome and familial disorders, including kidney cancer syndromes.


He described clinically and identified the molecular defects responsible for the genetic diseases HIF2α erythrocytosis with pulmonary hypertension, which results from a defect in cellular oxygen sensing, and CFHR5 nephropathy, which results from a defect of complement regulation and is endemic in people of Cypriot ancestry. He was Expert-in-Residence for the Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance during March 2018 and has played a key role in setting up the renal component of the 100,000 Genomes Project, a UK-wide initiative to sequence the whole genomes of large numbers of NHS patients with rare diseases and embed genomic medicine into clinical practice. He leads the Renal Genomics England Clinical Interpretation Partnership, a consortium of clinicians and academics that aims to understand how genetic variation, identified by whole genome sequencing, causes and contributes to kidney disease and chairs the Rare Disease committee of the UK Renal Association.

Professor Russell Wallis, Professor of Molecular Immunology, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Leicester

I completed my PhD in the School of Biological Sciences, University of East Anglia in 1992 working on protein-protein recognition with Colin Kleanthous (University of Oxford).  I then went to Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford, where I worked initially with Kurt Drickamer then with Ken Reid (FRS) and Bob Sim on complement activation via the lectin and classical pathways. I joined Leicester as an RCUK Academic Fellow in the Departments of Molecular and Cell Biology and Infection, Immunity & Inflammation (now Respiratory Sciences) in September 2006.  I was made a Professor of Molecular Immunology in 2014. My research interests focus on protein-protein and protein-carbohydrate recognition in the innate immune system.

Professor Turi King, Reader in Genetics and Archaeology and Professor of Public Engagement, Department of Genetics and Genome Biology and School of Archaeology and Ancient History

Turi read Archaeology and Anthropology at Cambridge before moving into molecular genetics, gaining a distinction in her MSc at the University of Leicester. She carried out her post-doctoral research as a Wellcome Trust Prize Student and gained her prize-winning PhD on the link between British surnames and genetics.

All of Turi’s work combines genetics with the fields of archaeology, history, geography and forensics and Turi is now a lecturer in Genetics and Archaeology in the University of Leicester. She is passionate about communicating science to the public and has appeared in, or advised on, numerous radio and TV programmes. Turi is perhaps best known as the genetics expert on the Richard III project, leading the international team that carried out the DNA analysis on the remains, confirming that DNA from the skeleton matched two of the descendants of Richard III's family. Her current work combines ancient DNA with archaeology and she is particularly interested in examining infectious disease in the past.