Tao Dong has held the post of Professor of Immunology in the MRC Human Immunology Unit at Oxford University since 2014 and is a Senior Fellow at University College Oxford. She is founding director of CAMS Oxford joint international Centre for Translational Immunology since 2013 and founding director (Oxford) of CAMS Oxford Institute based in Nuffield Department of Medicine, Oxford University since 2019.
Tao originally gained a BSc degree in Physiology from Fudan University, Shanghai, China in 1987. She moved to Oxford University in 1993 where she received a DPhil degree in Immunology in 1998 for work carried out under the supervision of Professors Sarah Rowland-Jones and Sir Andrew McMichael on qualitative changes in HIV-specific cytotoxic T cells associated with HIV disease progression. During her postdoctoral training, where she continued to study immune responses to HIV, she expanded her research interests to include work on influenza virus infection, which led her to start her own independent research group. In 2010 she became the Head of the human anti-viral and anti-cancer cytotoxic T cell laboratory and subsequently Program Leader in the MRC Human Immunology Unit at Oxford University. Since 2013, her research has expanded to cancer, with a central goal being to identify determinants of the ability of human tumour-specific cytotoxic T cells to control human tumour development and metastasis. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tao’s team has been working with colleagues in Oxford, UK and in China, testing samples taken from SARS-Cov-2 positive patients, and trying to understand why some people with a COVID-19 infection are able to fight it off successfully, while others get really ill.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, my Lab has been working with colleagues in Oxford, UK and in China, testing samples taken from SARS-CoV-2 positive patients, and trying to understand why some people with a COVID-19 infection are able to fight it off successfully, while others become severely ill. In particular, we are focused on the role of SARS-CoV-2 specific T cell responses in the pathogenesis of COVID-19. We have recently demonstrated broad and strong T cell responses induced in COVID-19 recovered patients. Relatively greater M and NP-specific CD8+ T cell responses were found in patients with mild disease. We also identified six immunodominant epitope clusters and optimized CD8 dominant epitopes (Peng et al, Nature Immunology 2020). We are currently focusing on characterization of those immunodominant T cell responses in detail at the single cell level, with the aim to understand the key factors which might contribute to immune protection or pathogenesis of the disease, such as T cell receptor usage, antigen sensitivity, cytotoxic potential, antiviral activity, migration capacity, and ability to contain potential mutations within the epitopes. These findings will inform our understanding of COVID-19 and future approaches to vaccination and treatment.
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