Researchers at the Kennedy Institute are contributing to research across Oxford’s Medical Sciences Division, as well as partnering with other Institutes across the UK and internationally, to provide insight into the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 and potential new therapeutics.

Coronavirus calls

Vaccines and antibodies

Professor Lynn Dustin and Dr Stephen Laidlaw are collaborating with investigators in the Nuffield Department of Medicine, Paediatrics, the Jenner Institute and Statistics to perform ultra-high throughput analysis of antibodies in patients recovering from COVID-19, as well as in subjects enrolled in vaccine trials, to better understand immune protection against the virus.

Inflammatory response

Profs Fiona Powrie, Claudia Monaco and Irina Udalova are leading work to understand how activation of particular white blood cells, termed innate immune cells, contribute to severe COVID-19 disease. Together with Profs Katja Simon, Mark Coles and Dr Stephen Sansom they are drawing on their expertise in myeloid cells and immunophenotyping protocols, as part of a collaboration with researchers in the Translational Gastroenterology Unit, MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine and Nuffield Department of Medicine aiming to understand what drives lung inflammation in severe disease and the interaction with enhanced blood clotting in some patients.


Dr Jethro Johnson, Deputy Director of the Oxford Centre for Microbiome Studies (OCMS) and members of the Powrie laboratory are working with colleagues across the University of Oxford and with colleagues at the University of Liverpool, Imperial College London, and Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai to collect and analyse stool samples from COVID-19 patients. Using capabilities within the OCMS, the team are working to understand whether an individual’s microbiome makeup affects local and systemic inflammation contributing to SARS-CoV2 pathogenesis. 

Computational Biology and Data Management

The COVID-19 immunology research effort across Oxford’s Medical Sciences Division is generating large amounts of information about how the immune system responds to SARS-CoV-2. Drs Brian Marsden and Stephen Sansom are contributing to a computational and bioinformatics supergroup to develop methods to ensure data generated across the COVID-19 immunology research effort are available within a central location in a richly described, clear fashion with appropriate access control.

Clinical Trials

Kennedy Professors Sir Marc Feldmann, Christopher Buckley and Mark Coles are contributing to the Oxford arm of the CATALYST trial, led by Professor Duncan Richards (NDORMS) and Dr Matt Rowland (NDCN), to investigate whether administering infliximab, which blocks the inflammatory molecule TNF, to patients with COVID-19 can prevent progression to respiratory failure or death.

Literature Review

A group of post-docs and DPhil students from Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology Journal Club, together with other departments in the Medical Sciences Division, are helping forefront COVID-19 research groups in Oxford, the UK and around the world by vetting and digesting the vast amount of pre-prints and publications on COVID-19 with an emphasis on Immunology. The idea of the initiative is to review pre-prints and papers in order to point them towards papers of relevance and good quality research.

The full digest of papers is available here.