Professor Ursula Gompels
BA MA MSc PhD
in Molecular Virology
PhD awarded from University of Cambridge followed by postdoctoral studies in herpesvirus molecular biology at Cambridge and the MRC National Institute for Medical Research in London. Granted a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship in Basic Biomedical Sciences in the Department of Medicine, University of Cambridge, then appointed faculty at LSHTM. Further awarded a Royal Society Industry Fellowship, and seconded to GlaxoSmithKline. In 2003 returned to LSHTM becoming Reader then Professor in Molecular Virology. Currently serving as National member International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, Herpesvirale study group member ICTV, World Health Organisation Consultation on regulatory expectations for evaluation of nucleic acid vaccines, and on the Royal Society Industry Fellows College.
Chair Exam Board: MSc Molecular Biology of Infectious Diseases (MBID)
Course exam boards: MSc Medical Microbiology.
Study Unit Organiser: Core Virology (3121) and Molecular Virology(3140)
Supervision and Examiner: PhD (Bloomsbury award with Birkbeck); MSc Medical Microbiology
Research is on the human herpesvirus family with current focus on the betaherpesvirus subgroup including human herpesvirus 6A and 6B (HHV-6A and B) and human cytomegalovirus (HCMV). These viruses can be significant pediatric pathogens and are major opportunistic infections in immune suppressed HIV/AIDS and transplantation patients causing both morbidity and mortality. HHV-6A and B are also linked with neuro-inflammatory disease and both uniquely can integrate their genomes into human subtelomeres in the germ line of approximately 1.0% of people worldwide; which could potentially express virus genes in every cell. We have defined novel genomes integrated as new endogenous virus with capacity to reactivate as emergent infections. Herpesviruses cause latent infections which persist for life, thus their intimate adaptations to our immune system provide unique tools to understand host-pathogen interactions and their applications to immunotherapy.
Work covers areas in infection and immune mediation as well as adaptation to gene therapeutic systems: i) using next generation sequencing technologies, genomic variation in infection modulators, particularly in relation to pediatric disease, with collaborative links with the University Teaching Hospital in Zambia, where we have demonstrated adverse effects on maternally HIV-exposed children; ii) studies on molecular mechanisms of postnatal virus entry or gene delivery mediated by cell fusion or congenital by genomic integration and iii) characterisation of viral versions of the inflammatory mediators, chemokine and chemokine receptors, as major components of immunomodulation. Our studies have identified and characterised the virus chemokine receptor and chemokines. We showed the virus chemokines can also efficiently inhibit HIV infection.
Overall, the virus chemokines and receptors can mimic or prevent cellular signalling and thereby direct immune cell recruitment/activation; with applications to immunotherapeutics, vaccine responses and control of inflammatory disease. These new innovations have led to two patent awards, ongoing knowledge translation in research and a spin out company to develop novel immunotherapeutics using DNA vaccines and gene delivery in advanced therapies.