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The University of Southampton



A functioning immune system is essential for maintaining normal health, fighting infection and controlling cancer. The advent of ‘omics’ is revolutionising our understanding of the immune system and the need to analyse it to improve health and combat disease.

Southampton’s multidisciplinary immunology research spans fundamental discovery through to clinical trials, across multiple specialisms including infectious diseases, cancer, dermatology, ophthalmology, rheumatology and metabolic disease.

Our interdisciplinary teams combine immunology with the physical sciences, mathematics, engineering and computer science, and adopt a lifecourse approach to understanding health and disease.

We are internationally recognised for our research in allergy, asthma and clinical immunology, cancer immunotherapy, and human development and health, and our research covers the broad areas of:


Barrier Immunity

At Southampton we are investigating the importance of epithelial and endothelial barriers in tissue resilience and repair and our world-leading research has led to the development of new immune therapies by the University spin-out company Synairgen.

The therapy (Interferfon ß) was created through Synairgen’s research on innate immunological mechanisms at airways epithelial cell barriers which pioneered the concept that epithelial dysfunction underlies immune-mediated pathology in both asthma and COPD.

Our research groups in barrier immunity are also investigating pattern, inflammation control, barrier function and angiogenesis at epithelial and/or endothelial surfaces of the lung, gut and skin.

Interface Immunity

Encompassing research into fundamental processes at cell-to-cell and organism-to-organism immune interfaces. Immune activation begins with the recognition of a pathogen, and we investigate interactions between the human immune system and viruses, bacteria and cancer. We employ human challenge models to understand the origins of immunity to infection, and high resolution immunophenotyping of the tumour microenvironment to develop better vaccination strategies to infection and cancer.

Southampton researchers are leading the understanding of antigen presentation and also the understanding of T-cell regulation at the dendritic cell and macrophage interface. They are also studying early innate effector mechanisms by macrophages, mast cells, NK cells, iNKT, GEM, and Gamma Delta T cells, regulatory T cells and tumour stromal cells, dendritic cells,  the role of eicosanoids in inflammation, and epigenetic control of inflammation.


Southampton has a proven track record in the translation of early discovery science to clinical immunotherapy trials. We have world-leading programmes in antibody-mediated immunotherapy, vaccine development, allergen-immunotherapy, cytokine therapy and engineered surfactant therapy.

Early immunodiagnosis is one of the fundaments of successful therapy, and studies in Southampton include early immunodiagnosis of allergy, tuberculosis and autoinflammatory disease.

Systems Immunology

We are employing high-throughput ‘omics’ technologies, to understand the interactions regulating immunity in health and disease. To enable us to design effective immunotherapeutic strategies, we are investigating the mechanisms underpinning immune regulation, personal predisposition for immune disease, and the development of personalised therapies.

Southampton researchers are also developing tools for integration of multi-level interactions with symbiotic and pathogenic microbiota. The state-of-the-art methodologies available on site are world class, including microfluidics guided single-cell transcriptomics, LS/MS mass spectrometry LabChip-SRM MS-MS, polysomal RNA-seq and IRIDIS4 - one of the most powerful computer clusters in UK.

Cancer cells
Cancer cells

Research areas include:


Cancer Immunology

Research in the Centre for Cancer Immunology relates to three main immunotherapies:

Our research focuses on the discovery of biological mechanisms that allow us to develop better preclinical models that can lead to the first-into-human clinical trials or practice-changing studies. If successful, these can lead to further clinical trials of potentially lifesaving cancer treatments.

Allergy and Inflammation

Southampton is the World Allergy Organisation Global centre of excellence with research into innate immunological mechanisms at epithelial cell barriers including those of the airways and skin. Mechanisms of allergic sensitisation and tolerance are investigated at the single cell level, in human tissues, and across the population. This research has a strong translational focus and has led to the development of new immune therapies.

Infectious Diseases

Southampton scientists conducted human clinical investigation including controlled human infection models to investigate upper respiratory tract colonisation and infection. They are investigating methods to diagnose accurately and rapidly treat infections, through testing of new molecular tests and vaccine strategies. We are also using whole genome sequencing before and during the implementation of new vaccines in the UK, to understand how infection spreads, and to monitor the efficiency of these vaccines.


Research into inflammation in the central nervous system (CNS) is helping to understand the pathogenesis of neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's, age-related macular degeneration and systemic lupus erythematosus; as well as the physiological, metabolic and behavioural changes that occur during systemic infection and during ageing or age-related neurological diseases.  Specific areas include:

Research Centres

WISH Laboratory

A bespoke laboratory providing translational research requiring quality assurance to regulatory standards


A European project investigating severe asthma

Partnerships and collaborations

Institute for Life SciencesLifeLabSynairgen

Education opportunities

MSc Allergy

A detailed programme of study in allergic disease for clinical practitioners

Professor Tim Elliott

Dr Marta Polak


“The University of Southampton/University Hospital Southampton partnership benefits from its shared facilities on a single site”

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