Interview with Professor Gary Entrican, Moredun Research Institute

31 Jul 2018

Professor Gary Entrican from Moredun Research Institute discusses his career in ruminant immunology, and how he promotes veterinary immunology and vaccinology globally, through his involvement in a number of excellent initiatives.

What is your name and job title? 

Professor Gary Entrican, Principal Research Scientist at Moredun Research Institute, Edinburgh, UK

Tell us about how you got to where you are today

I studied for my BSc in Immunology at the University of Glasgow and then went straight into an Industrial PhD CASE Studentship supervised by Professor Delphine Parrot at Glasgow to investigate regulation of eosinophil responses. During my PhD I completed a six-month placement at Fisons in Loughborough where I learned cytokine bioassays at a time when that technology was still very new. Following my PhD, I was offered a three-year PDRA position at Moredun Research Institute in Edinburgh on a viral immunology project. This is where I first became involved in ruminant immunology and was able to use the skills I had gained during my PhD placement to develop much needed veterinary immunological reagents (cytokine bioassays and monoclonal antibodies). Towards the end of the three years, I was offered a tenured position at Moredun, where I have been for over 30 years and am now a Principal Research Scientist.

What sparked your interest in veterinary vaccines? 

As an immunologist I’ve always been interested in vaccine development but my own research activities became more vaccine-orientated when I began working on chlamydial infections in sheep at Moredun. At that time, there had been both success and failure with prototype subunit chlamydial vaccines. However, almost no immunology had been done (apart from antibody measurements) so the reasons underlying the successes and failures were unknown. This was a great opportunity for me to apply the immunological tools I had developed to investigate cellular immune responses in an applied context, and has ultimately resulted in identification of immunological parameters that correlate with host protection.

Tell us about the initiatives you are involved in

Looking back, I first became interested in Committee work through interactions with The British Society for Immunology (BSI), in particular The Metchkinoff Club (now Edinburgh Immunology Group). The Metchkinoff Club was an excellent opportunity to hear great talks and meet and socialise with local immunologists when I first came to Edinburgh. I got involved in the Metchnikoff Committee because I wanted to promote veterinary immunology. I then became Secretary of the Metchkinoff Club and I then became a member of BSI Council (now Forum) and ultimately Chair of Council and a Trustee of BSI. I had also developed strong links with the international veterinary immunology community and I joined the International Union of Immunological Societies (IUIS) Veterinary Immunology Committee (VIC) to lead the immunology toolkit sub-committee. I am the current Chair of IUIS VIC and a member of IUIS Council. I am also a member of the Coordination Group of the BBSRC UK Veterinary Vaccinology Network, and a member of the International Research Consortium (IRC) Scientific Committee of the Global Strategic Alliances for the Coordination of Research on the Major Infectious Diseases of Animals and Zoonoses (STAR-IDAZ). My goal with all of these is to act as an ambassador for my organisation and promote the field of veterinary immunology.

What has been your greatest achievement to date? 

In terms of scientific research that has led to a tangible output, it would have to be the production of a panel of monoclonal antibodies against ruminant pestiviruses that we used to develop a diagnostic ELISA that was employed in a cattle bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD) eradication scheme in Scandinavia.

What is your next goal? 

There appears to be an age-gap appearing between established researchers and the next generation of scientists (not just veterinary immunologists). I think this is related to issues surrounding job security and I believe it is up to people in my position to find ways of securing the future of the next generation.

What benefits do you hope to get from being a member of the International Veterinary Vaccinology Network? 

The IVVN is a great platform for knowledge sharing veterinary vaccinology globally, I like the regular newsletters we receive. It also provides much-needed pump-priming funding to advance vaccine research projects to the point where they can hopefully secure larger funding streams and reach their target markets.

What do you think you could help other members of the International Veterinary Vaccinology Network achieve? 

Hopefully, the knowledge and tools I’ve generated for ruminant immunology will be used to identify vaccine targets and optimise mechanisms of delivery to accelerate progress. I could provide a rapid route of developing veterinary vaccines by underpinning mechanisms associated with protective immunity.

What is the best piece of advice you have had? 

In science, remember that your reputation is everything.

What advice you would pass on?

Have a vision of what you want to achieve and give it your best shot, remembering that there are things out with your control, no matter how hard you try.

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself

A vaccine–related story that might amuse people who know me now. When I was 14 the school nurse visited to give us all our BCG vaccination, which included the pre-requisite skin test and a medical. After she weighed me she told me that if I didn’t lose weight voluntarily she’d be writing a letter to my parents and putting me on a diet.