The Immunogenetics Group has been at Pirbright since 2009. We study the genes that initiate and control the immune response in livestock species. These genes, and the regions of the genome in which they are located, can be very diverse and variable between individual animals. This makes these regions difficult to characterise which has often prevented functional studies. Therefore characterising this genetic diversity and studying how it influences the immune system has great potential to improve disease resistance.
The aim of the Immunogenetics Group is to improve livestock disease resistance by investigating the genetics underlying differential immune responses to pathogens and vaccines.
We currently have several projects, largely focussing on cattle, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Wellcome Trust. These projects can be divided into two broad themes:
- Characterising the diversity and function of the highly variable natural killer cell receptors and MHC class I on immune function
- Examining the antibody repertoire and how this is influenced by infection and vaccination
Characterising immune diversity is now allowing us to better understand how animals are responding to infection and vaccination. This is leading to tools that will help inform breeding practices to produce more disease resistant animals. A more detailed understanding of how animals are responding to infection and vaccination will also help in selecting the best vaccine candidates early in development and inform novel vaccine design.