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Two new projects led by Tal Arnon and Irina Udalova have been awarded Medical Research Council (MRC) funding.

Tal Arnon and Irina Udalova

Tal Arnon will study the role of resident memory B (BRM) cells in protecting the lungs infected with the influenza virus.

The MRC grant will enable the Arnon Lab to further understand how pre-existing antibodies provide immunity against influenza, which is a major threat to human health that causes over 500,000 deaths per year globally. Tal's lab has already led a pioneering study exploring the dynamic behaviour of a unique subset of memory B cells that develop within the lungs following infection with the influenza virus. The research can now continue to discover how these cells differentiate into antibody producing cells and their role in establising short- and long-term immunity against influenza virus.

Speaking about the funding Tal said: "We are very excited to receive this funding and to further explore the role of resident memory B cells in protecting against the flu virus. Understanding the molecular mechanisms that regulate this process will help to guide the development of new and more effective vaccine strategies to prevent the spread of influenza variants."

Irina Udalova's MRC grant will enable the study of the mechanisms contributing to inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as such as Crohn's disease (CD) and Ulcerative Colitis, which are estimated to affect 1 in every 100 people in the UK. Irina's recent work decoded molecular wiring of innate immune cells, called neutrophils, and identified key control hubs amendable to tailored therapeutic targeting. "However, the specific role of neutrophils during colitis remains largely unexplored," said Irina. The team will now be asking what role neutrophils play in the initiation of intestinal inflammation that leads to IBD.

Using cutting-edge imaging technology, single cell genomic approaches and unique tools modulating neutrophil activity in vitro and in vivo models, the team will examine the functional impact of controlled modulation of neutrophil activity on the intestinal inflammation. Irina hopes the project will lead to the development of a new class of therapeutic strategies, based on selective modulation of neutrophil biology. "This MRC award will allow us to build our knowledge of their role in disease and offers hope for future treatments of the condition," said Irina.

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