Institute of Cellular Medicine

Staff Profile

Professor Claire Harris

Professor of Immunology

Background

Complement provides innate immune defence against infection and is an important driver of inflammation. However, inappropriate or uncontrolled activation of complement causes local and/or systemic inflammation, tissue damage and disease. I am interested in the mechanisms by which complement drives inflammatory disease, whether it be directly or as an amplifier of other triggers.  Recent work includes functional characterization of complement protein variants/mutants associated with diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), atypical haemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS) and C3 glomerulopathy (C3G). This work has led to the concept of the 'complotype' -the influence of complement genetic makeup on inflammation & infection (see ‘The complotype: dictating risk for inflammation and infection’. Trends in Immunology (2012), 33: 513).  My current research is focussed on therapeutic approaches for modulation or inhibition of the complement cascade, particularly on strategies to target or ‘home’ therapy specifically to disease sites (see ‘An anti-complement agent that homes to the damaged brain and promotes recovery after traumatic brain injury in mice’. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A (2015), 112:14319).  I have a long-standing interest in complement biomarkers of disease (diagnostics, prognostics), including measurement of complement proteins and activation products, and detection and functional analysis of nephritic factors (autoantibodies which bind complement enzymes).  These combined research foci provide insight into disease mechanisms which will be critical for design of effective anti-complement therapies and stratification of patients.  A period of time spent as Head of Complement at GlaxoSmithKline in the ImmunoInflammation Therapy Area (2013-2016) provided invaluable insight into the process of target and indication validation and drug discovery (see ‘Complement, a target for therapy in inflammatory and degenerative diseases’. Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2015;14:857); I joined Newcastle University in 2016 to further my work in translational research and experimental medicine. 


Previous positions

August 2013-May 2016; Personal Chair, Institute of Infection & Immunity, School of Medicine, Cardiff University

June 2013-April 2016; Complement Head, Director, Cytokine, Chemokine & Complement Discovery Performance Unit, ImmunoInflammation Therapy Area, GlaxoSmithKline, Stevenage, UK.

August 2010-July 2013; Reader, School of Medicine, Cardiff University 

August 2003-July 2010; Senior Lecturer, School of Medicine, Cardiff University

August 2002-August 2003; Lecturer, Department of Medical Biochemistry, University of Wales College of Medicine.

Education

1985-1989:  BSc Hons in Biochemistry; University of York

1989-1993:  PhD; MRC Centre, University of Cambridge

Research

- Complement therapeutics incorporating target validation, indication validation, proof-of-concept work; patient phenotyping & stratification.

- Structure/function relationships in complement activators and regulators with a particular interest in the mechanisms underlying complement dysregulation.

- Complement biomarkers (multiplexed assays for complement components and activation markers; nephritic factors).

- Complement and cancer, with a particular focus on the role of complement in promoting tumorigenesis.

- Complement and vaccination  (GSK CASE studentship), exploring the way in which complement bactericidal assays are used to assess vaccine efficacy in clinical trials; determination of the best methods to predict vaccine efficacy using complement functional assays.

 

The Harris group is a key component of the Renal Complement Therapeutics Centre based at RVI (aHUS National Service) and other national/international Rare Disease Working Groups. We work in close collaboration with Dr Kevin Marchbank (ICM), Dr David Kavanagh (IGM), Prof Tim Goodship (IGM), Prof Neil Sheerin (ICM) and Dr Sally Johnson (Great North Children’s Hospital).


National Renal Complement Therapeutics Centre:

http://www.atypicalhus.co.uk/


Publications