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Dr Andrew Williams
  • Senior Research Associate
  • Respiratory Medicine
  • Div of Medicine
  • Faculty of Medical Sciences

I was awarded my PhD in Immunology from the University of London in 2001. Since then I have gained considerable research expertise in the fields of immunology and lung disease. Early postdoctoral experience was obtained at Imperial College London, at the Centre for Microbiology and Infection, where I studied the immunopathogenesis of influenza virus, RSV and fungal infections of the lung. Research focused on how excessive inflammation can be modulated by bacterial components and anti-inflammatory cytokines. Work on immune regulation was furthered at the National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI) at Imperial College, where I developed international recognition for research on how microRNAs control lung development and inflammatory immune responses, as well as elucidating the role that microRNAs play in complex lung diseases such as asthma. Now at the Centre for Inflammation and Tissue Repair at University College London, my research focuses on how acute lung inflammation is regulated at both the cellular and molecular level, with particular interest in chemokine networks, neutrophil biology and and the regulation of inflammation.

I have published many scientific articles in leading, peer reviewed journals, and presented work at both national and international conferences. I routinely peer reviews manuscripts for journals such as PLOS One, BMC Genomics, Experimental Lung Research, Expert Reviews, Clinical and Experimental Immunology and Immunology Letters, and review major grants for Cancer Research UK, British Heart Foundation, the Health Research Board (Ireland) and the Helmholtz Association (Germany).

Research Summary

Active research interests focus on the regulation of inflammation associated with lung disease. In particular I am interested in the interaction between epithelial cells, fibroblasts and the immune system, with particular emphasis on chemokine networks and the regulation of inflammatory immune responses. A better understanding of how acute inflammatory responses are activated, regulated and resolved will allow us to discover and develop novel therapeutics for human use. Inflammation is a key component of many lung diseases including acute lung injury, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diseases caused by pathogenic viruses and bacteria such as influenza virus and Streptococcus pneumoniae.

Regulation of inflammatory immune responses can occur at several levels, involving different cell types, anti-inflammatory cytokines, and transcription factors. A key area of my research focuses on how complex chemokine networks influence the accumulation of inflammatory cells at sites of inflammation. These chemokine networks are often contextual, meaning that a certain chemokine influences the migration of different leukocytes depending on the associated milieu of chemokines and cytokines. I am particularly interested in neutrophil migration into the lung, which is dependent on the classic chemoattractant CXCL8 (IL-8) and the non-conventional neutrophil chemoattractants.

The production of inflammatory mediators can also be controlled by a family of small RNA molecules known as microRNAs, which function by inhibiting gene expression by interfering with protein translation. Several microRNAs are known to modulate the inflammatory process, including miR-146a, miR-155 and miR-223. Furthermore, recent evidence from our laboratory suggests that microRNAs play a key role in regulating chemokine expression, which in turn mediates the recruitment of inflammatory cells. I have shown that microRNAs play an important role in lung development, homeostasis and inflammation, and that microRNAs influence the outcome of complex lung diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Teaching Summary

I have lecturing experience in various aspects of basic immunology, taught to students on Biology and Biochemistry BSc degree courses. I have organised small group teaching modules for BSc, MSc and medical BSc students and have also held informal tutorials in immunology, pharmacology and cell biology for MSc and PhD students. I have extensively supervised PhD, BSc, MRes, MSc and medical students in the laboratory and have been a formal PhD student supervisor. I currently supervise PhD students at UCL and I am a personal tutor for MSc students. Extracurricular teaching includes organising and undertaking public engagement exercises at the Science Museum in immunology and vaccination. Furthermore, I am an author of an immunology textbook, Immunology: mucosal and body surface defences, which is published by Wiley Inc (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/book/10.1002/9781119998648)

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