Joannah Fergusson talks to us about her time on IITM and her current career.
Joannah completed her DPhil in 2015 and has since moved on to a post-doc position in Professor Hergen Spits’ lab at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. She completed her rotations with Paul Klenerman, David Greaves and Quentin Sattentau before settling in Paul Klenerman’s lab for her main project.
“The rotations are what make this programme unique, and you should make the most of that”
Before joining IITM, Joannah studied BSc Immunology at the University of Bristol. She admits that she had only a small amount of lab experience before applying, but was successful nonetheless. Her advice to would-be applicants is therefore to simply go ahead and apply even with limited prior experience, as you’ve nothing to lose! Joannah relished first year of the programme, saying “The rotations are what make this programme unique, and you should make the most of that.”
Joannah went on to study unconventional T cells in her project. “I studied Mucosal Associated Invariant T (MAIT) cells, T cells with an invariant receptor which make up about 10% of human circulating CD8+ T cells but have only recently been discovered. These cells respond to bacterial metabolites presented on a conserved antigen presenting molecule called MR1. They can also respond in an antigen-independent ‘innate’ way to other pathogens such as viruses, by sensing cytokines directly, without T cell receptor (TCR) signal. MAIT cells are characterised by the expression of CD161, but they are not the only cells to express CD161. I characterised other CD161-expressing CD8+ T cells and showed that they also shared innate characteristics despite being polyclonal and non-invariant.” Now in Amsterdam, she is defining novel immune cell subsets involved in peripheral tolerance and also looking at the role of innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) in steroid resistant asthma.
“Undoubtedly coming from a PhD programme from an internationally renowned university and endorsed by internationally renowned scientists (such as Fiona Powrie) was key in getting my current position”
When asked how IITM helped her achieve her current position, she commented: “Undoubtedly coming from a PhD programme from an internationally renowned university and endorsed by internationally renowned scientists (such as Fiona Powrie) was key in getting my current position. Having those sorts of people to call on for references is a definite advantage. Also, having the extra monetary support within the Wellcome Trust funding to travel and for research costs enabled me to gain experience in novel techniques which helped me stand out when applying.”
Publications from IITM:
R. Fergusson, M.H. Hühn, L. Swadling, L.J. Walker, A. Kurioka (2016) CD161(int)CD8+ T cells: a novel population of highly functional, memory CD8+ T cells enriched within the gut Mucosal Immunol. 9(2): 401-13
R. Fergusson, K.E. Smith, V.M. Fleming, N. Rajoriya, R. Simmons et al. (2014) CD161-expressing lymphocytes share a common transcriptional signature and function. Cell Reports 9(3):1075-88
Rajoriya, J. R. Fergusson, J.A. Leithead, P. Klenerman (2014) Gamma delta T-lymphocytes in Hepatitis C and chronic liver disease. Frontiers in Immunology doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2014.00400
Kurioka, J.E. Ussher, C. Cosgrove, C. Clough, R. Fergusson, K.E. Smith et al. (2014) MAIT cells are licensed through granzyme exchange to kill bacterially sensitized targets. Mucosal Immunology 8(2):429-40
Xue, J.R. Fergusson, M. Salimi, I. Panse, J.E. Ussher et al. (2014) Prostaglandin D2 and Leukotriene E4 synergise to stimulate diverse Th2 functions and Th2 cell/neutrophil crosstalk. J Allergy Clin Immunol 135(5):1358-66
Swadling, S. Capone, R. Antrobus, A. Brown, R. Richardson, E. Newell, J. Halliday, C. Kelly, J.R. Fergusson et al. (2014) A human vaccine strategy based on chimpanzee adenoviral and MVA vectors that primes, boosts and sustains functional HCV specific T-cell memory. Sci Transl Med 6(261):261ra153
Cosgrove, J.E. Ussher, A. Rauch, K. Kartner, A. Kurioka, M.H. Huhn, K. Adelmann, Y.H. Kang, J.R. Fergusson et al. (2013) Early and nonreversible decrease of CD161++/MAIT cells in HIV infection. Blood 121(6):951-61
J. Walker, E. Marrinan, M. Muenchhoff, J.R. Fergusson, H. Kloverpris, H. Cheroute, E. Barnes, P. Goulder, P. Klenerman (2013) CD8aa expression marks terminally differentiated human CD8+ T cells expanded in chronic viral infection. Frontiers in Immunology doi: 10.3389/fimu.2013.00223
R. Fergusson, V.M. Fleming, P. Klenerman (2011) CD161-expressing human T cells. Frontiers in Immunology doi: 10.3389/ﬁmmu.2011.00036