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Dr Laura McCoy
  • Marie Curie IOF Fellow
  • Div of Infection & Immunity
  • Faculty of Medical Sciences

Laura McCoy completed her undergraduate studies in Biochemistry at the University of Oxford, UK in 2004 and received her PhD degree in 2010 from Imperial College London, UK.  She then joined the laboratory of Prof. Robin Weiss at University College London (UCL) as a postdoctoral researcher. During her time in the Weiss Lab, Laura developed a novel screening method that led to the isolation of a broadly and potently neutralizing llama antibody (J3) from an immunized llama.

In 2013 Laura was awarded a UCL/MRC Centenary Travel Award to support her move to The Scripps Research Institute in California to continue her postdoctoral research into HIV antibodies under the supervision of Prof. Dennis R Burton. In 2014 she was awarded a Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship to continue her work on HIV vaccines in the Burton Lab until 2016 when she returned to UCL. Laura's current research within the Division of Infection and Immunity at UCL focuses on the role of B cell biology in HIV infection and vaccine responses.

Research Summary

During her postdoctoral work at The Scripps Research Institute, Laura developed a system to isolate monoclonal antibodies following experimental immunisation which revealed that the holes in the glycan shield of HIV are the target of much of the neutralising response to stabilised HIV envelope protein trimers. This work was published in 2016 in Cell Reports: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27545891. 

In addition, Laura helped to understand the interactions of broadly neutralising HIV antibodies produced during infection and how the early pre-cursors of these antibodies can be targeted. This work was published in 2015 in Immunity: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26588781. 

Also, during her time in the USA, Laura studied the phenomenon of incomplete neutralisation previously reported to occur for glycan-dependent HIV antibodies. She showed that all antibodies, regardless of epitope, can exhibit incomplete neutralisation in a strain-dependent manner. This work raised important questions regarding the level of intra-stain viral heterogeneity that needs to be represented in a vaccine and was published in Plos Pathogens in 2015: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26267277

While working in the Weiss lab from 2010-2013, in collaboration with the group of Prof. Theo Verrips in the Netherlands and Mike Seaman at the CA-VIMC, Laura demonstrated that J3 neutralizes 96% of strains including subtypes A, B, C, D, BC, AE, AG, AC, ACD, CD, and G. A high-throughput robotic platform was  used to isolate additional potent neutralizing VHH. Like J3, these VHH also target the CD4-binding site but neutralize viruses which are resistant to J3, highlighting the diverse ways this conserved region is susceptible to antibodies. These findings have been published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine in 2012: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22641382; PloS Pathogens in 2014: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25522326; and Retrovirology in 2014: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25700025

Academic Background
2010 PhD Doctor of Philosophy – Virology University College London/Imperial College
2004 M. Biochem Master of Biochemistry – Biochemistry University of Oxford
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