Giovanna Lombardi is Professor of Human Transplant Immunology in the Division of Transplantation Immunology and Mucosal Biology, MRC Centre for Transplantation, at King’s College London (KCL), UK. Before moving to KCL in 2005 she was Reader in Cellular Immunology (from 2002) in the Department of Immunology, Division of Medicine, Imperial College School of Medicine, Hammersmith Hospital, London. She joined the Department of Immunology at Hammersmith Hospital in 1987 from the University of Rome, Italy, as Senior Research Officer.
Her research has focused on the mechanisms of transplant rejection and tolerance as well as on the phenotype and function of naturally occurring regulatory CD4+CD25+ T cells (Tregs) in health and disease, both in the murine system and in man. Recently her laboratory has examined manipulating this population of cells in vitro to use for immunotherapy in transplanted patients. A protocol to expand polyclonal Tregs for clinical use has been established and it has moved to the GMP facility at Guy’s. Two clinical trials with Tregs in renal transplant patients as part of a large EU cell therapy consortium (the One Study) and in liver transplant patients supported by the MRC (ThRIL) started in 2014. Altogether 15 patients have been treated with Tregs demonstrating the safety of this treatment. In parallel, her group has demonstrated that adoptive cell therapy using alloantigen-specific Tregs can offer an advantage compared to polyclonal Tregs for preventing chronic allograft rejection. A new GMP facility with a cell sorter to generate highly pure Tregs is under validation. This new facility will open the possibility of using alloantigen-specific Tregs for future clinical trials. Finally, her group has been investigating ways to increase the efficacy of Treg therapy by combining the adoptive transfer of Tregs with inhibiting components of the innate immune system or by co-injecting low dose IL-2. So far these approaches have appeared to synergise with Tregs in delaying transplant rejection. The results obtained will inform future Treg therapies in transplant patients.