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We welcome Calliope (Calli) Dendrou who joined the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology this Summer as a Principal Investigator leading a research group. Calli is a leader in cross-disease multiomics and her research focuses on using omics (the study of totality of a molecular process in organisms) to find patterns shared by different inflammatory diseases, so that we can develop better treatments for these life-impacting conditions and repurpose existing treatments to help more people.

A photo of Calliope Dendrou. Calli has short black hair and wears a black floral shirt and smiles at the camera.

A new research group in the Kennedy’s Clinical Pathology Platform is being led by Calli Dendrou, who joins us as a Kennedy Trust for Rheumatology Research (KTRR) Group Leader in Clinical Pathology and Inflammation across Tissues. Calli brings a group of five PhD students and postdocs with her.

Before joining the Kennedy Institute, Calli was a Group Leader at the Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics (WHG) in Oxford, funded by a Sir Henry Dale Fellowship. “At the WHG, my group looked at genetic and genomic data to find patterns shared between different immune-mediated inflammatory diseases (IMIDs) which might be used to guide treatment strategies”, Calli said. “We investigate molecular circuits and cellular mechanisms across tissues and across diseases for the purpose of identifying ‘hubs’ that may be targeted therapeutically via drug repositioning approaches.” For instance, Calli’s research has helped to identify an inhibitory drug that mimics the effect of a genetic variant in tyrosine kinase 2 (TYK2) that protects against over 20 IMIDs, and her work has also led to a new gene editing strategy for the improved treatment of patients with severe IMIDs. 

At the Kennedy Institute, Calli will continue to use genetic and genomic tools to understand pathways shared by IMIDs and will be strongly embedded within the Clinical Pathology and Data Science platforms and help link their future strategies. Calli will also continue her role as Data Analysis Lead for multiple projects, including the Oxford-Janssen Cartography Consortium, central to Calli’s research. Cartography aims to create a map of cellular pathology across different immune-mediated diseases.

Professor Chris Buckley, Professor of Translational Rheumatology and Director of Clinical Research at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology said “Calli is an outstanding biologist with world leading expertise in applying single cell analysis to help medialize the Human Cell Atlas. Her ability to work across boundaries and her links to translational science in the pharmaceutical industry will be a tremendous addition to us at the Kennedy”.

“I’m so excited to have joined the Kennedy after collaborating with researchers there for many years”, said Calli. “The Kennedy is a great place to study the mechanisms of inflammatory disease and I’m excited to use state-of-the-art omics and imaging technologies available through the KIR, which will be really impactful for my research.”

Calli’s research is funded by The Wellcome Trust, the Medical Research Council (MRC), Janssen, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Kennedy Trust, and the NIHR’s Biomedical Research Centres (BRC).

Calli also brings to the Kennedy her experience with promoting Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in science and education. She was appointed EDI Champion for the WHG in 2020, where she helped shape the WHG Centre’s mission statement and strategy and formed and chaired a new EDI committee. Calli was elected as an NDM Inspiring Woman of the Year in 2022 in recognition of her efforts to create a positive lab research culture.

Beyond EDI in the workplace, Calli is an advocate for making sure that diversity is represented in all aspects of science. She advocates for the importance of designing therapies based on genomic data from diverse groups to ensure that novel treatments can provide equal benefit to all, and addresses the under-representation of minority ethnic groups in medical research. “To design new treatments that will help the diversity of people affected by inflammatory disease, we need to look at how those diseases affect everyone – not just a narrow demographic of those people.”

Calli enjoys sharing her research with the public in a way that makes research accessible. “This year, at the annual Great Exhibition Road Festival in London, we used grapes embedded in tofu to demonstrate how science can detect lymph node biology. We spoke to people from all over London, it was so much fun!”

Professor Irina Udalova, Professor of Molecular Immunology and Lead of the Data Science Platform at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology said “we are delighted to welcome Calli and her team to the Kennedy Data Science community! Calli’s expertise with large scale data assembly and analysis via the Oxford COMBAT and Oxford-Janssen Cartography Consortia, and her strong collaborative work ethics, is a great addition to the Data Science Platform”.