Dr Neil Berry
Dr Neil Berry’s research activities have centred around understanding differences in the pathobiology and disease impact of herpesvirus and retroviral infections in clinically-relevant cohorts. After initially investigating regeneration of humoral immunity to herpesviruses (CMV, HSV) in immunocompromised patients at the Royal Free Hospital Medical School, much of the focus has been to understand the nature of attenuated lentivirus infections, primarily those stemming from the HIV-2/SIVsm/SIVmac lineage, interactions between related viruses and different hosts, both human and simian.
Molecular and immunological studies of virus infection in vivo and virus-host interactions underpinned collaborative studies between the Medical Research Council (MRC) Unit, The Gambia and University College London (UCL) where Neil investigated key aspects of natural history, epidemiology and pathogenesis of retroviral infections in West Africa.
Novel molecular assays, including the first quantitative RT-PCR assay for HIV-2 RNA, were developed exploiting the emerging area of genome amplification technology to identify, for the first time, the correlation between low/undetectable HIV-2 RNA in plasma and asymptomatic HIV-2 infection. Detailed virological and immunological analyses of disease progression and survival identified pathobiological differences between HIV-1, HIV-2 and dually-infected individuals, particularly levels of virus replication and expression in vivo.
In the SIV model of HIV/AIDS, the differing impact of SIVsm, SIVmac and HIV-2 in understanding lentiviral pathogenesis, the scientific basis of vaccine protection against HIV and the relative contributions of innate and adaptive immune responses which may confer protection against superinfecting viruses are a continuing theme. In particular, understanding how the mechanism of live attenuated SIV is able to protect against wild-type challenge may inform HIV/AIDS vaccine design.
Neil also has a broad interest in viral infectious disease, viral pathogenesis and virus-host interactions at the molecular level. Recent interests include hepatitis C (HCV) and the GBV-B/tamarin model and the characterisation and potential for endogenous retroviruses to act as immunotherapeutic agents. In the vaccine safety field, he played a pivotal role assessing the scientific basis of allegations implicating archival oral poliovirus vaccines (OPV) for introducing HIV into humans. Molecular analytical investigations of batches of oral poliovirus (CHAT) strains, particularly mitochondrial DNA sequence analysis of cellular substrate refuted this notion (Berry et al, 2001, Nature).
Genomics-based methods, including next generation sequencing to characterise transmitted founder virus populations in vivo and reference materials for HIV-1, HIV-2 and SIV form a central part of on-going investigations and collaborations.
Neil is an Honorary Reader at University College London (UCL) and has published over 75 papers in Internationally recognised peer-reviewed journals in virology.