Institute Immunologists join a new UKRI-funded global collaboration on vaccine development

Institute Immunologists join a new UKRI-funded global collaboration on vaccine development

Institute Immunologists join a new UKRI-funded global collaboration on vaccine development

Key points:

  • Dr Michelle Linterman joins a new project to unite global expertise to understand the body’s response to COVID-19 vaccines, improve vaccine development and support future pandemic preparedness.
  • Dr Linterman will co-lead a work package on ageing and the response to vaccination, that aims to extend our understanding of why older people experience lower levels of protection from vaccination and to develop vaccines to mitigate this.
  • Receiving £8 million from UKRI, the IMMPROVE project is one of three projects funded under UKRI’s Tackling Infections strategic theme to assess the threat of future infectious disease.


A project bringing together a global team of immunologists from across academic and commercial partners is launched today by the University of Oxford following £8 million in funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Tackling Infections strategic theme. Called IMMPROVE (Immune Memory and Mechanisms of Protection from Vaccines), the project will explore how current and future vaccines can be enhanced to provide greater protection from respiratory pathogens, delivering cross-strain protection against COVID-19, as well as improving vaccines for ‘flu and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

The project is led by Professor Teresa Lambe OBE, Calleva Head of Vaccinology and Immunology, Department of Paediatrics and co-developer of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, and Paul Klenerman (Sidney Truelove Professor, Nuffield Department of Medicine), both at Oxford University. Alongside the University of Oxford, academic research partners include the Babraham Institute, University of Cambridge, University of Birmingham, Imperial College London, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University College London, University of Southampton, the PITCH consortium, the Sanger Institute, UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the Royal Veterinary College. Industrial and non-profit partners include AstraZeneca, Sanofi Pasteur, Moderna, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

Professor Teresa Lambe, Calleva Head of Vaccine Immunology said: “I’m excited to work with this world-leading team of scientists on this important programme of work. This research will help us better understand the processes by which vaccines lead to immune protection and how best to stimulate these, helping us prepare for the next pandemic.”

Dr Linterman, a senior group leader in the Institute’s Immunology programme, will co-lead the ‘Immunity’ work package with Professor Lambe and Professor Paul Moss (University of Birmingham). Her team’s expertise in the ageing immune system will be leveraged to understand the mechanistic basis for impaired vaccine protection in older adults and how these can be overcome by the next generation of vaccines.

Speaking about her involvement in the IMMPROVE project, Dr Linterman said: “Improving vaccine responses in the later years of life is a key scientific challenge that, if met, will enable us all to live healthier lives. The IMMPROVE project brings together key teams across the UK, and the world, to enable us to tackle this important topic.”

Dr Linterman and her team have published several findings relevant to the project over the last few years. These include teasing apart the widespread effects of age on the germinal centre, a hub for coordinated immune responses, as well as on individual immune cell types. Step by step, this fundamental research deepens our understanding of how immunological memory is generated, the effect of age on the immune system and how to maximise vaccination responses to ensure robust protection, especially in older people.  

The aim of the new project in developing tomorrow’s vaccines also aligns with an exciting international project led by Dr Linterman with researchers at the Malaghan Institute in New Zealand. This collaboration, which is funded by a BBSRC International Partnering Award, unites the expertise from the Institute in germinal centres and antibody secreting cells with the Malaghan’s mRNA vaccine development pipeline for making and testing new mRNA vaccines.

IMMPROVE co-lead Paul Klenerman, Sidney Truelove Professor, said: “The UK scientific community rose to the challenge of the pandemic and in doing so it brought many different groups together to collaborate in new networks. This consortium continues the spirit of that collaboration to address some of the key remaining challenges, not just for COVID-19, but for vaccines in general. I’m delighted to be involved and looking forward to working with such a great team of people.”



This news article is adapted from a press release issued by the University of Oxford: Oxford to lead global collaboration to research and develop next-generation COVID-19 and flu vaccines. Published 10th October 2023. Read the full Oxford announcement.


Press contact:

For the Babraham Institute: Dr Louisa Wood, Head of Communications, Babraham Institute,


  • Louis Taljaard, Manager Strategic Communications (Vaccines), University of Oxford: 
  • Sarah Nelson, Head of Communications, Pandemic Sciences Institute, University of Oxford: / +44(0)7812 152044


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Rows of vaccine syringes labelled with the word 'vaccine'. Shutterstock ID: 1705974892


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