Immunology expert Prof Adrian Liston elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences

Immunology expert Prof Adrian Liston elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences

Immunology expert Prof Adrian Liston elected Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences

Key points:

  • Professor Adrian Liston is one of 50 new researchers elected as Fellows of the Academy of Medical Sciences.
  • Candidates’ scientific achievements are peer reviewed, with successful researchers selected based on their contribution to advances in human health and welfare.
  • In a career spanning continents and disciplines, Prof Liston’s key scientific findings have expanded our understanding the human immune system as it interacts with our own bodies during health and disease.

Professor Adrian Liston, Senior Group Leader in the Immunology programme, has been elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences for his pioneering research in immunology and neuroimmunology. Fellows of the Academy of Medical Sciences are elected for exceptional contributions to the medical sciences either in the form of original discovery or of sustained contributions to scholarship.

Prof. Adrian Liston

Professor Dame Anne Johnson, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, said: “I am truly delighted to welcome these 50 new Fellows to the Academy’s Fellowship, and I offer my congratulations to each of them on their exceptional contribution to biomedical and health science. The knowledge, skill and influence that each brings to the Fellowship is the Academy’s most powerful asset.”

Commenting on his election, Prof. Liston said: “This is a really wonderful recognition of the quality of the science being run by my team here at the Institute. I am honoured to work with the best team of immunologists around, always willing to explore new fields and push the boundaries forwards.”

Prof. Liston’s work at the Institute explores uncharted areas of immunology with large implications for human health. The current research interests of the lab include working to shed light on the interactions between the immune system and the brain, and to learn more about how immune cells adapt and operate in different tissues around the body.


Exciting recent findings include that brain-resident T helper cells act to support the development of microglia and that the presence of these cells in the brain is essential for normal brain development in mice. These findings open up avenues of investigation that may help to drive the development of new therapeutics for neurological injuries like stroke and traumatic brain injury, and raise intriguing questions about the role of immune cells in information transfer between the body and the brain.

Watch the video summary narrated by Adrian Liston.

Prof. Liston’s expertise in immune system profiling has been applied to understand the factors that shape our immune system; looking at the factors that drive immune system variation between individuals, applying machine-learning and immune-profiling to improve the diagnosis of juvenile idiopathic arthritis in children, and a small-scale study to dissect the immune characteristics of severe COVID-19 responses.

“I am delighted to congratulate Adrian on his election as Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences,” said Dr Martin Turner, Head of the Immunology research programme, “Adrian’s work has been pivotal in increasing our understanding of autoimmunity and T cell populations, his recognition by the Academy is well deserved. Since joining the Institute, Adrian has proved himself to be an excellent leader, facilitating the international exchange of ideas, and promoting shared practices and values between his labs.”

Prof. Liston joined the Babraham Institute in 2019, after 10 years of running a research laboratory in Belgium. His team has expertise in cellular immunology, neuroimmunology, diabetes, immunodeficiency and systems immunology, and the team takes a creative and multidisciplinary approach to extending our understanding of the immune system.

After gaining his PhD with Professor Chris Goodnow at the Australian National University studying T cell tolerance and diabetes, Prof Liston moved on to study regulatory T cells with Professor Sasha Rudensky at the University of Washington before starting his own lab at VIB in 2009. Prof. Liston has produced over 180 publications with over 10,000 citations and has been awarded two ERC grants, the Eppendorf Prize and a Francqui Chair, among other honours.

Beyond academic publications, Prof. Liston also works to engage a wider audience with his research, in particular the importance of vaccination to protect health. In 2020, he published two children’s books, ‘Battle Robots of the Blood’, and ‘All about coronavirus’ to explain the coronavirus pandemic in an accessible way to children. He has also drawn on his own experience to offer advice to early career researchers looking to advance in academia.

A celebratory event in July will bring the Academy’s new Fellows together for a virtual induction and a series of talks from new members. One of the new Fellows is our campus colleague Dr Jane Osbourn, Chief Scientific Officer at Alchemab Therapeutics Ltd on the Babraham Research Campus and a Director of Babraham Bioscience Technologies Ltd. A full list of new Fellows can be found on the Academy of Medical Sciences website.


Notes to Editors

Press contact
Honor Pollard, Communications Officer,

Additional resources
Liston lab website
News 22 July 2020: New role for white blood cells in the developing brain
News 13 November 2020: Dissecting the immune characteristics of severe COVID-19 responses
News 20 August 2018: Institute welcomes three new research groups to study the immune system
News 13 March 2019: Profiling the immune system in paediatric arthritis patients offers hope for improved diagnosis
News 15 February 2016: Raising a child has a bigger effect on the immune system than the flu vaccine or gastroenteritis
Annual Research Report feature: New horizons for immunology

Image description
The image shows proliferating cells in a pancreatic tumour taken from a mouse on a high glucose diet. Green fluorescence is due to a marker (Ki67) for proliferating cells, red (CD31) shows blood vessels, blue (Dapi) shows the location of nuclei. 

About the Babraham Institute
The Babraham Institute undertakes world-class life sciences research to generate new knowledge of biological mechanisms underpinning ageing, development and the maintenance of health. Our research focuses on cellular signalling, gene regulation and the impact of epigenetic regulation at different stages of life. By determining how the body reacts to dietary and environmental stimuli and manages microbial and viral interactions, we aim to improve wellbeing and support healthier ageing. The Institute is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, through Institute Strategic Programme Grants and an Institute Core Capability Grant and also receives funding from other UK research councils, charitable foundations, the EU and medical charities.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.

BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by government, BBSRC invested £451 million in world-class bioscience in 2019-20. We support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.