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Susan M. Lea

Susan M. Lea, PhD.

Chair and Professor of Microbiology, Co-Director, Oxford Martin Programme on Vaccines, Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, UK

After studying pre-clinical medicine at the University of Oxford Prof. Lea was distracted by the world of science and pursued a PhD in structural virology in the laboratory of Prof. David Stuart in the Laboratory of Molecular Biophysics in Oxford. Her thesis work led to an interest in viral cell entry, which she then pursued as an independent scientist after winning one of the first Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellowships in 1995. Studies on echoviruses drew her into the world of Complement biology via their use of complement regulators as viral receptors. Joining the faculty in the Oxford Biochemistry Department in 1999 she continued to work using structural biology to define mechanisms in the interface between complement and invading pathogens, developing an interest in bacterial infections. She moved her group to the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology, Oxford in 2006 and was appointed to the Chair of Microbiology there in 2013 where she continues to work on using structural biology to give mechanistic insights into host-pathogen interactions.

Research/Clinical Interests
Although the group’s work is largely fundamental science driven, the insights yielded in recent years have moved closer to the clinic with collaborations involved in optimizing vaccine design for Neisseria meningitidis and using small peptides to manipulate complement regulatory mechanisms. Recent work has provided mechanistic insights into GWAS associations between variations in complement molecules and susceptibility to bacterial disease that have direct clinical implications for patient screening and medication. A particular recent interest has been in identifying and characterizing non-canonical complement interactions that reveal coordination between the complement system and other aspects of human immunity and inflammation.