Meet The Team
Dr Clive McKimmie
Clive is an Associate Professor who leads VHIT at the University of Leeds. He has a particular interest in studying host responses to viruses spread by mosquitoes, known as arboviruses. These viruses represent an important class of emerging infections that increasingly threaten human and animal health. VHIT are an enthusiastic, dedicated team of researchers who aim to understand better the mechanisms by which these viruses cause disease and how our immune system defends us against them. We are an inclusive, interdisciplinary team who value collaboration and would welcome any interest or queries that you might have in our work.
During a summer research internship in Glasgow under the supervision of previous VHIT member Marieke, Ailish's interest in the host immune response to arboviruses was first sparked. After completing her BSc in Immunology at the University of Glasgow, she moved to Leeds to join VHIT to undertake her PhD as part of the MRC DiMeN DTP. Ailish is investigating how susceptibility to arbovirus infection changes in the presence of pre-existing inflammation. She studies how the host response to virus is altered when skin is exposed to UV. Outside of the lab, Ailish spends most of her time playing Animal Crossing and trying to hit her Goodreads reading challenge.
Yonca Keşkek Türk
After completing a BSc in Veterinary Medicine at Ankara University in Turkey, Yonca decided that the best route for her career was joining the virology world. Thanks to a government-funded fellowship, she could move to the UK to join VHIT, to complete a PhD under the valuable supervision of Clive. Yonca is studying host responses that define the severity of neurotropic arbovirus infection. She is particularly interested in Toscana virus (TOSV), which is spread by sandflies. Her project looks to define the role of sandfly saliva on modulating host susceptibility to infection with TOSV. Yonca is a cat lover and outside of the lab, she enjoys exploring her new home.
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Dr Marieke Pingen
Marieke's main research interests are viral transmission and dissemination. After finishing her PhD on transmission and evolution of drug-resistant HIV, she moved to the University of Glasgow to explore the role of the mammalian immune system on arbovirus transmission and dissemination with Clive. Together they moved to the University of Leeds. She is currently focussing on the origin of viraemia, which is essential for virus transmission. In addition to science, Marieke likes films, hiking, whisky, baking and board games.
Dr Steven Bryden
After spending his final year undergraduate project and 12-week BBSRC mini project with VHIT, Steven returned in 2015 to start his BBSRC-funded PhD project to investigate the early innate immune events of arbovirus infection at the inoculation site - a better understanding of which, could help in the development of new therapeutic strategies for these viruses. Having finished his PhD in 2019, Steven moved to the MRC Centre for Virus Research to study tick-borne arboviruses. Steven is a coffee addict, leading expert in complaining and co-convenor of the VHIT Nicolas Cage fan club.
Dr Daniella Lefteri
Daniella undertook a PhD exploring how mosquito saliva enhances the infection of mosquito-borne viruses. This work helped identify those factors in mosquito saliva that modulate host susceptibility to infection with virus. She is now working at the MRC Centre for Virus Research studying Wolbachia and arbovirus transmission. Apart from loving science, Daniella is a huge bookworm with a special love for anything ever written by J.R.R Tolkien as well as being addicted to World of Warcraft from time to time.
UG and MSci Students
Explanation of Joe's project
Explanation of Lewis's project
Emily undertook her final year undergraduate laboratory project with VHIT. Her project involved developing a novel ex vivo model of arbovirus infection using whole skin explants. This work is soon to be published as part of Daniella Lefteri's paper. Emily is now studying medicine.
Andrew joined VHIT as an intercalating medical student in 2018. He investigated how exposure to environmental ultraviolet light, similar to that from the sun, modulates mammalian host susceptibility to arbovirus infection. Andrew discovered some really interesting differences in skin exposed to UV that we hope to publish soon.
At the end of her Bachelor's degree in the Netherlands, Janne wanted to do an internship abroad. With the help of Team, Janne investigated the effects of different components of an immune-boosting cream on different cell types after virus infection. She is currently finishing her Bachelor's programme back in the Netherlands.
Jack completed his Honours Project in Clive’s lab at the University of Glasgow. He investigated possible therapeutic options against arbovirus infection, by boosting early immune responses to decrease viral spread. Jack later began working as a research technician in Glasgow’s Centre for Molecular Parasitology, where he studied the biology of the human pathogen, Toxoplasma Gondii. Jack has now started a PhD at the Francis Crick Institute in London.
During her Undergraduate Medical degree at the University of Glasgow, Charis completed her Intercalated Degree research project with Clive and Marieke. She investigated the effect of Semliki Forest Virus on dendritic cells. In particular, whether the virus is able to infect DCs and the effect this has on them. Charis is currently completing her Medical degree but hopea to be involved in academic medicine and research throughout her career.
Christie did a Masters research project with Clive Mckimmie working on Semliki Forest Virus (SFV), a mosquito-borne arbovirus. She investigated the differences in viral replication rate and innate immune responses of SFV derived from an insect-cell or mammalin-cell derived source. This experience led Christie to pursue a PhD at Lancaster University investigating the ability of the Wolbachia bacteria to inhibit the transmission of some arboviruses in mosquitoes.
After finishing his undergraduate degree in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the University of Crete, Konstantinos did his Masters in Infection and Immunology at the University of Glasgow. Here, he had the pleasure of working with VHIT on a project about the effect of arbovirus infection in dendritic cells. Now, Konstantinos is working towards his PhD thesis, investigating the role of the NF-κB regulator IκBNS in effector T cells, at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Germany.
Hayley worked in the McKimmie group as part of her Undergraduate Immunology degree at the University of Glasgow, investigating the impact of Semliki Forest Virus infection on dendritic cell function and their migration to draining lymph nodes. She graduated with a First Class M.Sci Immunology degree in 2013 and went on to pursue a PhD on the Wellcome Trust PhD training programme at Imperial College London. Keeping with the infection-immunology theme, Hayley is now interested in age-related changes to the immune response in Respiratory Syncytial Virus infection.
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