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Dr James McLaren

Dr James McLaren

Sêr Cymru Lecturer in Systems Immunity

+44 (0)29 2074 4431
Sir Geraint Evans Building
Available for postgraduate supervision


My research interests focus on understanding how adaptive immune responses, driven by T cells, are mobilised during virus (e.g. HIV, cytomegalovirus) infection, microbial colonisation, inflammation and disease. Furthermore, I have a keen interest in discovering how this type of cellular immunity is regulated by biological signals (cytokines) and how it can destabilise when global immune responses become imbalanced, such as in sepsis.

I am actively involved in "Project Sepsis", a research collaboration across medicine and scientific disciplines that has been established to address an urgent medical need for an accurate, rapid diagnosis that detects the infectious cause underlying the onset of sepsis. Here, my aim is to deconvolute the immunological mechanisms that drive the suppression of adaptive immunity in sepsis with a view to help improve diagnosis and to inform the design of novel therapeutic interventions.


My research career began in 2004 with a Ph.D. in the laboratory of Professor Martin Rowe and Dr. Paul Brennan at Cardiff University. During this time, my research focused on dissecting how Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) dysregulates key antiviral mechanisms (interferon signaling) during B-cell transformation. This research sparked my interest in cytokine modulation of adaptive immunity. From here, I undertook my first post-doctoral position, under the supervision of Dr. Dipak Ramji at Cardiff University, where I studied how cytokines manipulate the formation of macrophage-derived foam cells. Foam cell formation is a key process in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis and heart disease and I determined that interleukin-33 (IL-33) could inhibit macrophage foam cell formation, which was a novel discovery at the time.

In 2010, I was awarded a Wellcome Trust Value in People (VIP) Fellowship to join the laboratory of Professor David Price at Cardiff University to expand my interests in viral immunology and cytokine biology. Here, I focused on performing high-tech approaches (polychromatic flow cytometry, advanced T cell receptor sequencing) to understand how antigen-specific T cell immune responses are mobilized in humans and mice during virus (HIV, cytomegalovirus, EBV, dengue virus) infection, microbial colonisation, inflammation and disease. During this fellowship and beyond (2010-2018), I have made some significant contributions to the immunological field, including a number of high-impact publications (Cell, Nature Immunology, Science Immunology, Immunity, Journal of Experimental Medicine), and have been invited to give lectures on this research at conferences, biotech companies and academic institutions in the UK and Australia. Additionally, I expanded my interests in cytokines (e.g. IL-33) by examining how they regulate T cell immunity during virus infection in vivo.

In 2018, I was recruited as a Lecturer in Systems Immunity at Cardiff University to apply my expertise in T cell profiling during infection for “Project Sepsis”, a new research collaboration that has been established to address an urgent medical need to accurately diagnose sepsis and to develop novel therapeutic interventions.


Honours and awards

  • Cardiff University SIURI Rutherford Travel Fund Grant (2018)
  • British Society of Immunology Travel Award – 41st Annual International Herpesvirus Worksop, Madison, WI, USA (2016)
  • Cardiff University Morgan E Williams Fund award (2016)
  • Cardiff University WM Thomas Fund award (2016)
  • 1st prize for best presentation at Cardiff University I3-IRG annual meeting (2007)
  • Travel Fellowship - 12th Biennial conference of the International Association for Research on Epstein-Barr Virus and Associated Diseases, Boston, MA, USA (2006)

Professional memberships

  • Member of the British Society of Immunology

Academic positions

  • 2018-present:   Sêr Cymru Lecturer in Systems Immunity, Division of Infection & Immunity, Cardiff University, UK
  • 2011-2018:        Research Associate, Division of Infection & Immunity, Cardiff University, UK
  • 2014:                 Visiting Scholar, Vaccine Research Center, NIAID, NIH, Bethesda, MD 20982, USA
  • 2010-2011:        Wellcome Trust Value in People Research Fellow, Cardiff University, UK
  • 2007-2010:        British Heart Foundation Research Associate, School of Biosciences, Cardiff University,  UK

Speaking engagements

  • 5th UK CMV conference, Glasgow, UK (2018)
  • Immunocore Ltd, Milton Park, Didcot, UK (2017)
  • 4th UK CMV conference, Cardiff, UK (2016)
  • Cardiff University Infection & Immunity Annual Meeting, Cardiff, UK (2015)
  • Dept of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Monash University, Clayton, Australia (2015)
  • MATER Research-UQ, University of Queensland School of Biomedical Science, Brisbane, Australia (2015)

Committees and reviewing

Committees and grant reviewing:

  • Grant reviewer, MRC and Academy of Medical Sciences
  • Grant panel, Wellcome Trust/Cardiff University ISSF
  • ECR Expert Panel. Oxford Open Immunology

Journal reviewing:

  • Journal Reviewer, Advanced Science
  • Journal Reviewer, Journal of Immunloogy
  • Journal Reviewer, European Journal of Immunology
  • Journal Reviewer, Frontiers in Immunology
  • Journal Reviewer, iScience
  • Journal Reviewer, Vaccine
  • Journal Reviewer, International Journal of Molecular Sciences




















  • MET921 - MSc Applied & Experimental Clinical Immunology
  • MBBCh degree SSC Year 2: Interactive Immunology and Infectious Diseases - Lecturer and practical contributor
  • MBBCh degree SSC Year 1: Literature Review
  • MBBCh degree Year 1 Platform for Clinical Science (PCS): Applied Immunology - Academic Tutor
  • MBBCh degree personal tutor

Student appraising:

  • PhD student appraiser
  • PhD student examiner


I am interested in supervising PhD students with a strong interest in T cell immunology in the areas of:

  • Virus-specific T cell immunity
  • Cytokine-driven modulation of adaptive immunity
  • Mechanisms of immune suppression during sepsis


  • Active contributor to Cardiff University Science in Health: Live week
  • Contributor to Learned Society of Wales & Seren Network Outreach Pilot Project 2018