Department: Pathobiology and Population Sciences

Campus: Hawkshead

Research Groups: Ecosystems Health, Host-Pathogen Interactions and Vaccinology, Safe and Sustainable Food

My current main research interest is the ontogeny of the innate immune system between species, the importance of SNP in innate immune receptors for ligand binding, and how we can use our knowledge regarding the innate immune system to design new/optimise existing vaccine strategies.

After gaining a First class BSc.VetMed. (Veterinary University Hannover), my Dr.Med.Vet. thesis at the ETH Zuerich examined the impact of Bovine Leukaemia Virus infection on the ability of bovine macrophages to respond to LPS. This work was then followed by a stipend of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) to participate in the PostGraduate course in Experimental Medicine, run by the University Hospital Zuerich. After a year, I returned to ETH Zuerich with a Postdoctoral Research Fellow Stipend of the German Research Foundation (DFG). This was followed by a Marie Curie Research Fellowship of the EU to join the group of Chris Howard at the Institute for Animal Health (Compton Laboratories) to work on the development and characterisation of dendritic cells and their role in respiratory syncytial virus infection. From here, I moved back to the ETH Zuerich as a Senior Scientist (Oberassistent). During this period I expanded the scope of my work to encompass the development of the innate immune system in ruminants, and aspect of pathogen escape mechanisms in innate immune cells. In 2001, I accepted an Assistant Professorship (Tenure Track) at the Institute of Virology (University of Berne), in the group of Thomas Jungi. In 2003, I accepted a Senior Lectureship at the Royal Veterinary College, and was promoted to a personal tenured Chair and Professor in Molecular Immunology in 2007. The key motivation for this move was the unique opportunity to develop dendritic cell based vaccines for farm animals by targeting the then newly discovered class of innate immune receptors, such as the Toll-like receptors. In this role I have been responsible from the outset for the design, implementation and evaluation of new vaccine delivery platforms. These activities have attracted substantial funding and resulted of the submission of 3 different patent-applications. My research during this period has naturally been biased towards research administration, where close working relationships with industrial partners has been essential. Throughout, however, I have continued to make significant contributions to answering the function of the innate immune response in farm animals and evolutionary questions associated with identified differences between farm animals, human and mice. I have produced so far over 90 Peer Reviewed Publications in international journals across a broad range of empirical research topics such as that of the coevolution between host and pathogens, and the species-specific recognition of pathogens (Trends in Immunology). My current research is funded through BBSRC, EU (FP7 and EMIDA) as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


Published since January 2014

  1. Lack of genetic diversity in newly sequenced porcine circovirus type 1 strains isolated 20 years apart. Tombácz K, Patterson R, Grierson SS, Werling D. Genome Announc. 2014 Apr 10;2(2). pii: e00156-14. doi: 10.1128/genomeA.00156-14.
  2. Global gene expression profiling of myeloid immune cell subsets in response to in vitro challenge with porcine circovirus 2b. Mavrommatis B, Offord V, Patterson R, Watson M, Kanellos T, Steinbach F, Grierson S, Werling D. PLoS One. 2014 Mar 11;9(3):e91081. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0091081. eCollection 2014.
  3. Functional characterisation of bovine TLR5 indicates species-specific recognition of flagellin. Metcalfe HJ, La Ragione RM, Smith DG, Werling D. Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2014 Feb 15;157(3-4):197-205. doi: 10.1016/j.vetimm.2013.12.006. Epub 2013 Dec 30.
  4. Correlation of cell surface marker expression with African swine fever virus infection. Lithgow P, Takamatsu H, Werling D, Dixon L, Chapman D. Vet Microbiol. 2014 Jan 31;168(2-4):413-9. doi: 10.1016/j.vetmic.2013.12.001. Epub 2013 Dec 14.


I am actively involved in both undergraduate and graduate teaching and am happy to hear from potential research students. I have successfully supervised 10 undergraduate research projects, 7 of which were awarded 1sts for their projects. I have successfully supervised 8 (+ 3 current) D.Phil/Ph.D students, all of whom have gone on to successful careers in research and/or industry. Some of my graduate and undergraduate students have won awards and prizes for their dissertations and conference presentations under my supervision.

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