Faculty of Biological Sciences

Prof G Eric Blair

BSc, Edinburgh; PhD 1974, Warwick
Professor in Molecular and Cellular Biology
School of Molecular and Cellular Biology

Background: Postdoctoral work in Aarhus, Denmark; Uppsala, Sweden and National Institute of Medical Research, London. Appointed Lecturer 1981, Senior Lecturer 1988, Reader 1996.

Contact:  Garstang 8.53f, +44(0) 113 34 33128, email address for  

Figure 1: Human adenovirus

Figure 2: MHC class I molecule

Research Interests

DNA tumour viruses: Entry into cells and evasion of the immune system

The small DNA tumour viruses (adenoviruses, papillomaviruses, SV40 and polyomaviruses) have proved to be important in the study of cell transformation, cell cycle control and tumour formation. In recent years, the adenoviruses have been exploited as potential vectors in gene therapy for inherited diseases such as cystic fibrosis and cancer. Human adenoviruses (see Figure 1) enter cells by attachment of the projecting fibre proteins to cell surface receptors. We have been studying the expression of a major cell surface receptor, CAR, that admits adenoviruses into susceptible cells. Engineering of CAR may improve entry of adenoviruses designed to deliver therapeutic genes into cells, providing benefits for gene therapy. We are also interested in using therapeutic adenoviruses to stimulate antigen-presenting cells (dendritic cells) in humans to reject cancer cells.

Although the adenoviruses can be harnessed to provide new treatments, in order to survive in humans, they must adopt mechanisms to avoid the immune system. We have shown that the adenoviruses and oncogenic human papillomaviruses (HPV16 and 18) subvert the process of antigen processing and presentation mediated by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules. The class I molecules (see Figure 2) bind intracellularly processed peptides in the groove of the class I heavy chain molecule. Adenoviruses and oncogenic HPVs encode proteins (E1A and E7 respectively) that repress expression of many genes involved in the class I antigen presentation pathway. We aim to understand the biochemical mechanisms that underlie this immune evasion since this may reveal new targets to eradicate cancer-causing viruses.


Faculty Research and Innovation

Studentship information

Undergraduate project topics:

  • Construction of inducible cell lines expressing human adenovirus and papillomavirus oncoproteins
    Keywords: Adenoviruses, E1A oncogene, HPV, E7 oncogene, transformed cells, immunochemical detection of viral oncoproteins
  • Target cellular genes for modulation by adenovirus and papillomarivus oncoproteins and the relationship to tumorigenicity
    Keywords: Adenoviruses, E1A and E1B oncogenes, HPV, E6 and E7 oncogenes, cellular gene expression

Postgraduate studentship areas:

  • DNA tumour viruses: Entry into cells and evasion of the Immune system

See also:

Modules managed

BIOC3900 - Cancer Biology
BIOL3400 - Skills in the Cell Biology of Human Disease

Modules taught

BIOC2301 - Intermediate Integrated Biochemistry
BIOC2302 - Intermediate Biochemistry: Practicals
BIOC2303 - Intermediate Biochemistry: Skills
BIOC3160 - Laboratory/Literature/Computing Research Project
BIOC3231/32/3900/BIOL3211/MICR3212 - ATU - Molecular Oncology
BIOC3900 - Cancer Biology
BIOC3900/BIOL3211/BMSC3233/34/36 - ATU - Cancer Therapy/Biology
BIOL1302 - Introductory Skills for Biological Sciences
BIOL2111/BIOC2301 - Integrated Biochemistry/Genetic Engineering
BIOL2301 - Intermediate Skills for Biological Sciences
BIOL2301/03/05/MICR2320 - Skills for Biol Sci, Biosciences and Microbiology
BIOL2301/03/05/MICR2320/BIOL3400 - BIOL/BIOC/MICR advanced skills/Skills in the Cell Biology of Human Disease
BIOL2301/05 - Skills for Biol Sci & Biosciences
BIOL2305 - Integrated Skills for Biosciences 2
BIOL3305 - Advanced Skills in the Biosciences
BIOL3305/3400 - Advanced Skills in the Biosciences/Skills in the Cell Biology of Human Disease
BIOL3306 - Biological Sciences Research Project
BIOL3398 - Research Tools and Applications
BIOL3399 - Extended Research Project Preparation
BIOL3400 - Skills in the Cell Biology of Human Disease
BIOL5294M - MSc Bioscience Research Project Proposal
BIOL5296M - Treatment of Infectious Disease and Cancer
BIOL5392M - Bioscience MSc Research Project
BLGY3110 - Applied Genetics
BMSC1103 - Basic Laboratory and Scientific Skills
BMSC2210 - Chemotherapy
MICR2120/BIOC2301 - Integrated Biochemistry/Medical Bacteriology
MICR2221 - Medical Immunology

Centre membership: The Antimicrobial Research Centre

Group Leader Prof G Eric Blair  (Professor in Molecular and Cellular Biology)

DNA tumour viruses: Entry into cells and evasion of the immune system 


Muhammad Abdullah (Primary supervisor) 50% FTE
Magdalena Karwatka (Primary supervisor) 90% FTE
Abigail Bloy (Co-supervisor) 20% FTE
Anthony Chan (Co-supervisor) 30% FTE
Sian Drake (Co-supervisor) 40% FTE