I obtained a BVetMed from the Royal Veterinary College, University of London, UK in 1982. After a period of time in Large Animal Practice, studied for a Masters degree in Molecular Biology at University College London in 1988, then a PhD degree, as a Wellcome Trust Scholar, from the University of London, UK, in 1991. I then carried out postdoctoral research, as a Wellcome Trust Post-doctoral fellow, at the Royal Veterinary College and the Babraham Institute, Cambridge for three years. I joined the Institute for Animal Health in 1994 and focused on studies of the immune response to viral infections in cattle. In addition, I have provided advice and expertise on the design of infectious disease challenge models for a wide range of pathogens in important agricultural species. My research is focused on understanding the immune response to foot-and–mouth disease virus (FMDV) in cattle to develop novel vaccines.
I have recently conducted a large systematic study to quantify FMDV transmission and found that cattle are infectious for less than 50 hours to challenge previous assumptions on incubation and latent periods. In conjunction with work to quantify the degree of protection afforded by vaccines, this will improve the accuracy of disease spread models that were a highly controversial source of policy and culling advice during the UK 2001 epidemic. These conclusions will impact greatly on how the UK deals with future outbreaks. My group have studied the localisation of persisting virus in FMDV carriers to follicular dendritic cells within lymph node germinal centres. From studies of FMDV infection in calves, we showed antibody responses to capsid surface sites are T cell-independent, whereas those directed against nonstructural proteins are T cell-dependent. Furthermore, CD4(+) T-cell-independent antibodies play a major role in the resolution of disease. These results have shaped the course of the FMDV vaccinology programme to optimise the design of vaccine antigens. Substantial FMD vaccine development efforts focus on delivery of whole viral capsids by a variety of approaches and routes. Collaborating with Oxford structural biologists and baculovirus experts at Reading, we have developed an in vitro system to make empty capsids stabilised by targeted mutagenesis to survive heat and pH changes. These have potential as vaccines with safer production, better shelf life, and greater potency.