University of Dundee

Appointment strengthens ties with pharma industry

23 Aug 2021

A University of Dundee researcher is to join an international collaboration that brings scientists from academia together with one of the world’s largest pharma companies to help develop new drugs for cancer and other devastating diseases.

Doreen Cantrell, Professor of Cellular Immunology at the University’s School of Life Sciences, has been selected to join GSK’s Immunology Network, a programme designed to embed academic scientists in GSK laboratories with the goal to broaden scientific insight and drive major breakthroughs in applied immunology.

Professor Cantrell is an immunologist and a leading authority on the biochemical regulation of T lymphocytes, the white blood cells which control the immune system, and which are a factor in many diseases.

Joining the Immunology network means she will spend 20% of her time seconded to GSK’s R&D organisation in Stevenage, where she will advise on the development of immunology programmes.

In addition to providing guidance based on her long-standing experience of running programmes such as these, Professor Cantrell will also work with GSK scientists to develop specific projects aiming to produce new therapies for diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and type I diabetes.

Professor Cantrell said, “I am delighted to have been selected to join the Immunology network at GSK and to be able to play a role in developing and guiding programmes with the potential to lead to new breakthroughs in the treatment of a wide variety of diseases.

“The immune system can be thought of as a car going from stopped to moving beyond the speed limit. When it is standing still, the body is unable to clear the cells that cause cancer. When it goes too fast, it becomes dangerously out of control as it clears cells, giving rise to autoimmune diseases.

“As such, molecular immunology tries to ensure the car is travelling at a safe speed and is increasingly used in cancer therapy and in treating autoimmunity. This secondment is recognition of both the expertise we have in this field at Dundee and also our track record of academia-industry collaboration.”

The University has collaborated with GSK for many years, most notably through Dundee’s Division of Signal Transduction Therapy (DSTT). Founded in 1998, the DSTT is the world’s longest running collaboration between academic research laboratories and the pharmaceutical industry, with leading pharma companies, including GSK, providing the multi-million pound support for fundamental research in multiple therapeutic areas.

Gillian Tannahill, Scientific Director at GSK’s Immunology Network, said, “We are delighted that Professor Cantrell has joined our researchers at our global R&D hub in Stevenage. Doreen is a world renown expert in T cell immunology who will contribute significantly to our vibrant immunology community at GSK. We look forward to sharing ideas to deepen our understanding of immune dysfunction in disease and ultimately develop transformational medicines for patients.”