Mary Collins (immunologist)

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Mary Collins
Mary Katharine Levinge Collins
Alma mater
Known forDevelopment of lentivirus viral vectors
Tim Hunt (m. 1995)
ChildrenTwo daughters,[1] born c. 1996 and 2000
Scientific career
ThesisThe mechanism of action of mitogens for cultured murine fibroblasts : regulation of mitogenic receptors and response (1983)
Academic advisorsEnrique Rozengurt

Mary Katharine Levinge Collins is a British Professor of Immunology. She is Dean of Research at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology in Japan. Formerly, Collins taught in the Division of Infection and Immunity at University College London, and was the head of the Division of Advanced Therapies at the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control, and the Director of the Medical Research Council Centre for Medical Molecular Virology. Her research group studies the use of viruses as vectors for introducing new genes into cells, which can be useful for experimental cell biology, for clinical applications such as gene therapy, and as cancer vaccines.[2][3][4][5]


Collins was born in Reading, England and grew up in Cheltenham Spa, attending Cheltenham Ladies' College as a day girl. She won an entrance scholarship to Clare College, University of Cambridge, where she studied Natural Sciences (Biochemistry).[citation needed] She did her postgraduate research work supervised by Enrique Rozengurt at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund for which she was awarded a PhD by the University of London in 1983.[6]

Career and research[edit]

After her PhD, she moved to a postdoctoral fellowship with Avrion Mitchison at University College London studying the locations of T cell receptor gene clusters, and next worked with Richard C. Mulligan at the Whitehead Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she developed retroviral vectors expressing cytokines and cytokine receptors.[3]

Collins started her research group in 1987 at the Institute of Cancer Research in London and moved in 1997 to University College London, where she has since held a variety of leadership positions. She served as the head of UCL Immunology & Molecular Pathology from 2000 to 2007, became Director of the Medical Research Council Centre for Medical Molecular Virology in 2005, became Director of the UCL Division of Infection & Immunity in 2008, and served as the Dean of the Faculty of Life Sciences between 2009 and 2014. She stepped down as dean to become the head of the Division of Advanced Therapies at the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control.[3][7]

Collins was among the prominent UCL women scientists featured in a series of interviews published by the MRC in celebration of International Women's Day in 2011[8] and was one of two UCL women to participate in a women in science event in collaboration with Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in 2012. In December 2015, it was announced that Professor Collins would become Dean of Research at the Okinawa Institute of Technology. Forbes Magazine speculated that she would supervise of $110m in Japanese government funding at the Institute.[9][10]

Collins' research group studies the use of viruses, particularly lentiviruses (the group to which the human immunodeficiency virus belongs), as vectors for delivering novel genes to cells and as platforms for the development of vaccines.[2] Because lentiviruses like HIV specifically infect immune cells called T-cells, a genetically engineered inactivated version of the virus can be used to deliver immunogenic proteins to T-cells to induce an immune response. This system has been studied successfully in laboratory mice.[11][12]

Awards and honours[edit]

Collins was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences (FMedSci).[3][when?]


Collins married Tim Hunt in 1995,[1] who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2001. They have two children.[13]


  1. ^ a b c HUNT, Sir Tim. Who's Who. 1992 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. closed access (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b "Prof Mary Collins". University College London. Archived from the original on 15 June 2015. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d "Professor Mary Collins". National Institute for Biological Standards and Control. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  4. ^ "People, Medical Molecular Virology". University College London. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  5. ^ "Mary Collins website @UCL". Archived from the original on 2015-06-15.
  6. ^ Collins, Mary Katharine Levinge (1983). The mechanism of action of mitogens for cultured murine fibroblasts : regulation of mitogenic receptors and response (PhD thesis). University of London. OCLC 941030795.
  7. ^ "New leadership team for the UCL School of Life & Medical Sciences". University College London. 30 June 2009. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  8. ^ "Leading UCL researchers celebrate women's contribution to science". University College London. 10 March 2011. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  9. ^ "Women in Science: Nurturing Nobels". University College London. 12 March 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  10. ^ Robin McKie (2015-12-19). "Tim Hunt and Mary Collins: 'We're not being chased out of the country. Our new life's an adventure'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-12-28.
  11. ^ Collins, MK; Cerundolo, V (December 2004). "Gene therapy meets vaccine development". Trends in Biotechnology. 22 (12): 623–6. doi:10.1016/j.tibtech.2004.10.006. PMID 15542151.
  12. ^ McKie, Robin (23 April 2011). "Mary Collins: HIV can help fight disease". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  13. ^ "Biozentrum Lectures 2010". Universität Basel. Retrieved 11 June 2015.