Imperial College London, U.K.

IAVI HIL Alisha Pherson Immunology AssayAlisha E. McPherson, lab tech, working on immunology assays at the Human Immunology Laboratory at Imperial College London

The IAVI-Human Immunology Laboratory (HIL), established in 2001, is fully integrated into the Infectious Disease department within the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College London and serves as the clinical immunology reference laboratory for IAVI and across the IAVI clinical research center (CRC) partner network worldwide. As an accredited Good Clinical Laboratory Practice (GCLP) laboratory the IAVI-HIL has five key core capabilities:

  1. Novel assay development, qualification and validation;
  2. Conduct clinical trial assays;
  3. GCLP accredited high-quality global operations including sample/reagent, data management;
  4. Clinical site support including training and technology transfer throughout a global network; and
  5. Extensive biobanking capacity to store and manage samples from clinical trials and epidemiological studies.

IAVI-HIL applies expertise toward the development of safe and effective vaccines and prevention strategies to combat a range of diseases including HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and more recently emerging infectious diseases including Lassa, Ebola, Marburg, and COVID-19.

The HIL brings together scientific investigators including immunologists and virologists with expertise in the design and operational execution of clinical trials and serves as a central training hub to prioritize the development of early career scientists across our African and Indian CRC network.

The HIL has world-class containment level 2 and 3 facilities for characterization of pathogenic entities and next-generation analytical equipment and capabilities to support the analysis of samples from clinical trials, epidemiology, and research activities. It also houses a central repository for clinical samples collected from clinical and epidemiological studies conducted worldwide. The HIL bio-repository has the capacity to store over 1 million vials in liquid nitrogen/-80°C freezers and holds a U.K. Human Tissue Authority license. Samples and associated data are managed through an online Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS).

The HIL plays a central role in strengthening existing scientific capacity in affiliated African/Indian laboratories to enable independent research and diagnostics activities. These partnerships have led to the establishment of fully accredited laboratories (GCLP) across Africa, ensuring the standardization of laboratory procedures applied in vaccine trials. In addition, the HIL has facilitated/conducted training of early career scientists including doctoral and master’s degree students to perform basic and clinical research for investigating the immune system’s response to HIV infection and understand vaccine response. The HIL is intimately connected with IAVI vaccine discovery science at its Vaccine Design and Development Laboratory (DDL), Neutralizing Antibody Center (NAC) and Product Development Center (PDC), providing access to preclinical and translational capabilities, as well as clinical and regulatory filings.

HIL and affiliated employees are stationed across partner Indian and African CRCs, the U.K., and the U.S., and include epidemiologists, immunologists, and virologists. With funding acquired from U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), the European Union through Horizon 2020 and the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and the pharmaceutical industry, the HIL’s work has facilitated in excess of 40 vaccine trials in Africa, India, and the U.S., with more underway.

The HIL investigators include:


Selected publications by HIL investigators and their collaborators:

Infection with multiple HIV-1 founder variants is associated with lower viral replicative capacity, faster CD4+ T cell decline and increased immune activation during acute infection, 2020 PLoS Pathog, 16: e1008853. (Open access)

Better Viral Control despite Higher CD4(+) T Cell Activation during Acute HIV-1 Infection in Zambian Women Is Linked to the Sex Hormone Estradiol, 2020 Jul;94(16). DOI: 10.1128/jvi.00758-20. (Subscription required)

Cohort profile: IAVI’s HIV epidemiology and early infection cohort studies in Africa to support vaccine discovery, 2020 Int J Epidemiol. Sep 3;dyaa100. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyaa100. (Open access)

HIV-1 variants are archived throughout infection and persist in the reservoir, 2020 Plos Pathogens, Vol:16, ISSN:1553-7366. (Open access)

Adeno-associated virus vectored immunoprophylaxis to prevent HIV in healthy adults: a phase 1 randomised controlled trial, 2019 Lancet HIV, Vol: 6, Pages: E230-E239, ISSN: 2352-3018. (Open access)

Protective HLA alleles are associated with reduced LPS levels in acute HIV infection with implications for immune activation and pathogenesis, Plos Pathogens, Vol: 15, ISSN: 1553-7366. (Open access)

Control of the HIV-1 Load Varies by Viral Subtype in a Large Cohort of African Adults With Incident HIV-1 Infection, 2019 Journal of Infectious Diseases, Vol: 220, Pages: 432-441, ISSN: 0022-1899. (Open access)

Protective HLA alleles are associated with reduced LPS levels in acute HIV infection with implications for immune activation and pathogenesis, 2019 Plos Pathogens, Vol: 15, ISSN: 1553-7366. (Open access)

Inhibitory killer-cell immunoglobulin-like receptors strengthen CD8+ T cell-mediated control of HIV-1, HCV and HTLV-1, 2018 Science Immunology, Vol: 3, ISSN: 2470-9468. (Open access)


Further reading

African-led health research and capacity building — is it working? 2020 BMC Public Health volume 20, Article number: 1104