Department: Pathobiology and Population Sciences
Clinical Groups: Farm Animal Health
Research Centres: RVC Quantitative Biology Resource
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. Here, we are concentrating more on carbohydrate recogntion and carbohydrate-based vaccines.
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 100 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.
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Published since January 2018
1: Tombácz K, Burgess G, Holder A, Werners A, Werling D. Toxoplasma gondii profilin does not stimulate an innate immune response through bovine or human TLR5. Innate Immun. 2018 Oct;24(7):422-429. doi: 10.1177/1753425918798450. Epub 2018 Sep 8. PubMed PMID: 30196747. 2: Dutton LC, Dudhia J, Catchpole B, Hodgkiss-Geere H, Werling D, Connolly DJ. Cardiosphere-derived cells suppress allogeneic lymphocytes by production of PGE2 acting via the EP4 receptor. Sci Rep. 2018 Sep 6;8(1):13351. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-31569-1. PubMed PMID: 30190508; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6127326. 3: Soldevila F, Edwards JC, Graham SP, Stevens LM, Crudgington B, Crooke HR, Werling D, Steinbach F. Characterization of the Myeloid Cell Populations' Resident in the Porcine Palatine Tonsil. Front Immunol. 2018 Aug 15;9:1800. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.01800. eCollection 2018. PubMed PMID: 30158925; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6104124. 4: Peiravan A, Bertolini F, Rothschild MF, Simpson KW, Jergens AE, Allenspach K, Werling D. Genome-wide association studies of inflammatory bowel disease in German shepherd dogs. PLoS One. 2018 Jul 20;13(7):e0200685. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0200685. eCollection 2018. PubMed PMID: 30028859; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6054420. 5: Grierson SS, Werling D, Bidewell C, Williamson S. Characterisation of porcine circovirus type 2 in porcine circovirus disease cases in England and Wales. Vet Rec. 2018 Jan 6;182(1):22. doi: 10.1136/vr.104450. Epub 2017 Oct 19. PubMed PMID: 29051314. 6: Gabai G, Amadori M, Knight CH, Werling D. The immune system is part of a whole-organism regulatory network. Res Vet Sci. 2018 Feb;116:1-3. doi: 10.1016/j.rvsc.2017.09.018. Epub 2017 Sep 20. PubMed PMID: 28958409.
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.