Creating new models to understand disease

Posted: 11th April 2022

Dr Julian Vivian joined SVI earlier this year, to head the newly established Structural Immunology Laboratory. 

Julian’s expertise is in protein chemistry, with a research focus touching on cancer (especially leukaemia), virology (including HIV) and autoimmune disease (including multiple sclerosis and psoriasis). 

“I use techniques in the lab that allow me to visualise the three-dimensional structure of proteins and molecules that are central to the immune response,” explains Julian. 

“The aim is to uncover the mechanisms by which these molecules drive disease susceptibility and progression. Then we can use this new knowledge to identify how those same mechanisms can be harnessed to cure disease, rather than to create it.” 

Julian’s research specifically focuses on three kinds of cells of the many that make up our immune system: effector cells, which are ‘short-lived’ and activated as part of the body’s immune response; T cells, which are white blood cells central to the immune response; and Natural Killer cells, another kind of white blood cell that can detect and kill aberrant cells, such as those transformed by viruses or cancer.  

“My goal is to develop the next generation of immunotherapies to treat diseases as diverse as cancers and multiple sclerosis,” says Julian. 

“SVI’s first Director, Professor Pehr Edman, was famous for his early mapping of the structure of proteins. Over the years since, SVI has also built a strong focus on human immunology,” says Professor Tom Kay, SVI Director. 

“Julian’s expertise will help us build greater understanding of the underlying mechanisms of diseases like cancer, viruses and autoimmune conditions – exploring new ways to treat them and even prevent them from happening in the first place.” 


For more information please see: Structural immunobiology