Edinburgh Research Explorer

Pete Kaiser

(Former employee or visitor)

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My research in a nutshell

Summary of Research

My research focuses on understanding host-pathogen interactions, primarily in the chicken, studying responses to viruses, bacteria, protozoan parasites and worms. I am particularly interested in understanding how the bird's response to infection differs to that of mammals, with two practical aims - to develop novel vaccines, particularly using host molecules as vaccine adjuvants in the new generation of recombinant poultry vaccines, and to map disease resistance genes so as to be able to breed selectively for more robust chickens.

For the past two decades or so, my primary focus has been the biology of cytokines, comparing their numbers and functions in birds to those in mammals. Cytokines drive and coordinate immune responses, during homeostasis and in response to infection and vaccination. To understand the role of cytokines in host-pathogen interactions, we have to understand the cells that produce and respond to them. We now focus in trying to understand the site of antigen presentation in chickens, so that we can understand how this works in a non-mammalian species, and therefore how we might manipulate it.

We therefore are concentrating our efforts onto understanding the phenotype and function of antigen presenting cells (APCs) in the chicken, on the repertoire and role of chemokines (cytokines that tell immune cells where to go) and the repertoire of CD4 T cell subsets in the chicken. Chemokines bring APCs together with CD4 T cells (and/or other cells) so that antigen presentation can take place, and then these CD4 T cells differentiate into different subsets, each of which drives different adaptive immune responses to, hopefully, clear the pathogen/vaccine and lead to immunological memory.

To map disease resistance genes, we use the full panoply of post-genomic technologies (genome resequencing, high density SNP chips, copy number variation analysis, RNASeq, etc.). For mapping populations, we either use backcrosses between inbred lines of birds with known phenotype, or genome-wide association studies (GWAS) with outbred populations. We are currently mapping resistance to viruses (MDV, IBV and IBDV), bacteria (Salmonella and Campylobacter) and a protozoan parasite (Eimeria).

Research Interests

Current Funded Projects

As Principal Investigator:

2013 BBSRC Animal Health Research Club grant. PI with Steve Bishop, Damer Blake and Fiona Tomley as Co-Is (last two at RVC). Understanding resistance and differential vaccine responses to Eimeria in the chicken - novel biomarkers and genetic control. £891,729 (of which £466,530 to Roslin).

2012 Biosciences KTN BBSRC CASE studentship with Cobb-Vantress. Identification of novel biomarkers of resistance toEimeria infection in the chicken. £90,000.

2012 Wellcome Trust Biomedical Resources grant. PI with David Hume, Dave Burt, Helen Sang and Mike McGrew as Co-Is. The National Avian Resource Facility. £625,414 (FEC £1,472,511).

2012 BBSRC National Capability Grant. The National Avian Research Facility. £1,233,696. PI.

2011 BBSRC-LINK with Aviagen. PI with Mark Stevens as Co-I. Mapping resistance to Campylobacter in the chicken. £1,245,371 (£618,707 cash, £624,664 in kind).

2011 SPASE. Transcriptome sequencing of host and pathogen during the infection process to provide fine definition of their interaction. £294,365.

2010 Biosciences KTN BBSRC CASE studentship with Aviagen. Towards selection for improved immune robustness in commercial chickens. £80,000.

2010 CEVA Sante Animale. Potentiating the efficacy of Transmune IBD. €90,000 (funds PhD student).

2010 CEVA Sante Animale. Identification of novel cytokine adjuvants. €90,000 (funds PhD student).

2009 CSF1, IL34 and the function of macrophages in avian development. BBSRC IPA with Pfizer. £86,398.

2009 Reducing the impact of infectious disease on village poultry production in Ethiopia. BBSRC/DfID CIDLID initiative. £116,029.

2008 Network of Animal Disease Infectiology Research facilities. EU. €7,890,882 (~€300,000 to Roslin).

As Co-Investigator:

2014 BBSRC/TSB Agri-Tech Catalyst Industry award. Co-I with Mike McGrew (PI). Genome biobanking for the optimisation of valuable broiler genetic stocks. £497,303 to Roslin.

2013 BBSRC. Co_I with Mike McGrew (PI). Gene targeting of primordial germ cells using TALEN technology to generate the first knockout transgenic chickens. £126,460.

2013 BBSRC. Co-I with David Hume, Fiona Tomley and Damer Blake (PI) (last two at RVC). Controlling enteric pathogens of poultry: host/microbiota interactions, risk assessment and effective management interventions. £789,411 (of which £375,956 to Roslin).

2012 BBSRC IPA with Hyline. Co-I with Dave Burt as PI. Genome-wide mapping and identification of genes controlling resistance to Marek's Disease virus infection in commercial layer chickens. £973,920.

2012 BBSRC IPA with Hyline. Role of AKT1 & SIVA1 in resistance to avian salmonellosis. Co-I with Mark Stevens as PI. £459,626.

Research students

Former PhD Students

Tuan Jun Hu


University of Edinburgh


The Tim family of molecules in the chicken - important differences from mammals.

Mark Gibson


University College London


A genetic and functional analysis of novel chicken interleukin-1 gene family members.

Victoria Waters


Royal Veterinary College


The chicken chemokine repertoire.

Amy Boyd


University of Bristol


Developmental biology of avian toll-like receptors and functional analysis of TLR15 and 21.

Claire Powers


University of Bristol


Changes in intestinal biology which affect clearance of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium in the chicken

Heba Mahgoub


University of Bristol


Improved vaccination strategies for IBDV: cytokines as vaccine adjuvants.

Dimitrios Dilaveris


Royal Veterinary College


The safety and efficacy of a live in ovo vaccine against Newcastle disease.

Uday Pathania


Royal Veterinary College


Cloning and characterisation of the chicken IL-10 family.

Annelise Soulier


University of Leeds


The role of defensins in controlling Salmonella infections in chickens.

Lucy Chappell


University of Glasgow


The role of SPI-1 and SPI-2 type three secretion systems in persistent Salmonella entericaserovar Pullorum infections of chicken.

Fiona Powell


University of Liverpool


Histomonosis and the differential survival of poultry species.

Tuang-Yeow Poh


Imperial College London


Functional characterisation of avian chemokines and their receptors.

Sucharitha Balu


University of Bristol


Cloning and characterisation of chicken interleukin-12 and the interleukin-12 receptor.

Ibrahim Eldaghayes


University of Bristol


Use of chicken interleukin-18 as a vaccine adjuvant with a recombinant fowlpox virus fpIBD1, a subunit vaccine giving partial protection against IBDV.

Liz Haygreen


University of Bristol


Enhancing in ovo vaccination using novel DNA vaccines.

Stuart Avery


University of Bristol


Identification, chromosomal location and structure of the avian Th2 cluster.

Karen Hackney


University of Leeds


IBV D-RNAs as delivery vectors for heterologous genes.

Shelly Lawson


University of Bristol


Characterising the turkey's immune response to an avian pneumovirus and using turkey IL-2 and IFN-γ as vaccine adjuvants.

Gail Lynagh


University of Bristol


The role of IL-6 in the immune response to coccidian.



My whole scientific career has been in research institutes, within and outwith Universities, from my PhD at the University of Manchester Institute for Science and Technology (UMIST), through my post-doctoral fellowship at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, followed by 18 years at the Institute for Animal Health (IAH) at Compton, where I started as a post-doc and left as Head of programme and Division, to my time now at The Roslin Institute & R(D)SVS, University of Edinburgh. During that time, I have metamorphosed from being a molecular geneticist working on antibiotic-producing bacteria, to an immunologist and geneticist working on host-pathogen interactions in birds.

I am chairman of the Comparative and Veterinary Immunology Affinity Group of the British Society for Immunology and Avian Co-Chair of the Toolbox Committee of the Veterinary Immunology Committee (International Veterinary Immunology Society). I am a trustee of the Houghton Trust and sit on six Editorial Boards, as well as various advisory groups for the BBSRC.




The Roslin Institute & R(D)SVS, University of Edinburgh:




Director of the National Avian Research Facility



Deputy Director



Head of Division of Infection and Immunity



Chair in Animal Infectious Diseases




Institute for Animal Health:




Head of Avian Infectious Diseases Programme Leader



Acting Head of Division of Immunology



Avian Genomics Group Leader, Division of Immunology



Avian Cytokines Group Leader, Division of Immunopathology



Senior Post-Doctoral Researcher




Institut Pasteur, Paris. Recipient of a Fellowship from the European Institute of Technology.



University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST). PhD.


University of Leeds. BSc. (Joint Hons.) Genetics/Microbiology IIi


I presented my inaugural lecture on 22 October 2012. If you would like to see it, click on the link in the Public Interest section.




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