Dr Liz Whittaker is Clinical Lecturer in paediatric infectious diseases and immunology. She divides her time between Imperial College London and the Department of Paediatric Infectious Diseases and Immunology, St. Marys Hospital, London where she is a Consultant.
Her main research interests are the ontogeny of infant immune responses to a variety of pathogens. Her PhD data suggest that children under a year of age have an immaturity of their non-specific T cells or innate immune responses in conjunction with increased numbers of regulatory T cells. She has been expanding on this theme while an NIHR funded ACL and now by creating generic and specific assays that will examine the maturation of immune responses in children of different ages, from premature infants of different gestation to older children with 'mature' immune systems. The aim of this research is to develop biomarkers of infection for diagnostic purposes in neonates and to understand differences in immature immune responses that may lead to protection for this vulnerable group, either through vaccinations or immunomodulatory interventions in pregnancy and/or the early neonatal period. Understanding these differences is essential for the development of new adjuvants which will increase the efficacy of neonatal vaccinations to such pathogens as CMV, Group B streptococcus & RSV.
Liz is the paediatric specialty co-lead for the northwest London Clinical Research Network. In this role, she leads the development of local clinical research network activity in paediatrics, encouraging local clinicians to participate in NIHR clinical research network portfolio studies.
In addition, Liz has a strong interest in teaching and training and currently is the quality advisor to the paediatric allergy, immunology and infectious diseases CSAC committee at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
Liz completed her Wellcome Trust funded PhD project "Immune responses to mycobacteria; the role of age and disease severity" in 2014. The project was supervised by Professor Beate Kampmann at Imperial College and Professors Mark Nicol and Heather Zar at the University of Cape Town, where all of the children were recruited at Red Cross Memorial Children's Hospital. She was fortunate to complete her lab work in the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine in Cape Town, working closely with both Clinical Infectious Diseases Research Initiative (CIDRI) and the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (SATVI).
She completed her undergraduate training in medicine at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, including an HRB (Health Research Board) funded BSc in Biochemistry. This included a basic research project 'The role of NFkappaB in 5-Lipoxygenase activation' with Prof. Luke O'Neill for which she won the Bruno Orsi Medal for best research project. Following this she trained as a paediatrician in London and was successfully awarded an Academic Clinical Fellowship in Paediatric Infectious Diseases in 2006. The 9 month research period associated with this fellowship allowed her to develop her interest in paediatric infectious diseases and involved a couple of research projects (on TB Biomarkers and Interferon Gamma Release Assays) which resulted in a number of presentations and publications. During this time she was also involved in the setting up of a paediatric TB Europe Network to facilitate collaboration between Paediatricians caring for children with TB and improved care for children with TB in Europe. She completed the Gorgas Diploma Course in Clinical Tropical Medicine in Peru and was awarded a DTM&H in 2009.
She is a member of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), Academic Paediatrics Association (APA), British Paediatric Allergy Infection and Immunity Group (BPAIIG), Children's HIV Association (CHIVA), International Child Health Group and the Paediatric TB Europe Network (ptbnet) and a steering committee member of the British Association of Paediatric TB (BAPT). She plays an active role in the Centre for International Child Health (CICH) at Imperial College London.
et al., The Evolving Research Agenda for Paediatric Tuberculosis Infection, Lancet Infectious Diseases, ISSN:1473-3099
et al., 2018, Cerebral tuberculomas in a 6-year-old girl causing central diabetes insipidus., Bmj Case Rep, Vol:2018
et al., 2018, Age-related waning of immune responses to BCG in healthy children supports the need for a booster dose of BCG in TB endemic countries, Scientific Reports, Vol:8, ISSN:2045-2322
et al., 2018, Tuberculosis susceptibility and protection in children., Lancet Infect Dis
et al., 2018, Neonatal immunization: Rationale, Current State, and Future Prospects, Frontiers in Immunology, Vol:9, ISSN:1664-3224