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I received my undergraduate degree in Physiology and Pharmacology from the University of Southampton in 2003. Following this I undertook a Masters degree in Oncology at the University of Nottingham. 

In 2008 I joined the University of Oxford as a research assistant evaluating the use of a HIV viral inhibition assay as a potential alternative to a standard ex-vivo IFN-γ Elispot assay for use in clinical trials. During my DPhil, 2010-2014, I investigated the immunogenicity of novel therapeutic vaccines against HIV-1. This lead to my current research interest of HPV-associated disease.


I lecture on the MSc in International Health and Tropical Medicine

Gemma Hancock

Senior Postdoctoral Researcher

My research focuses on immune control of high-risk HPV infections


The goal of our research is to understand the immune mechanisms that determine successful control/clearance of HPV infection and how these can be exploited in the development of vaccines and T cell-based therapies. Our work encompasses studies at the single cell level, patient cohorts and clinical trials.

HPV Immunity Study

Cervical cancer is the consequence of persistent infection by high risk human papillomaviruses (hrHPV). The majority of HPV infections are transient and subclinical due to rapid immune clearance; 90% regress within two years. However, precancerous lesions (cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, CIN) develop in approximately 25% women with a 6-month persistent cervical infection and a small fraction of these progress to invasion. Several lines of evidence suggest that cell-mediated immune responses play a crucial role in regression of precancerous lesions and clearance of infection. Our understanding of effective host immunity is incomplete. Strategies to identify critical viral epitopes for T cell recognition have typically focused on a few genotypes, peptides and HLA-peptide binding prediction algorithms and studies have largely been cross-sectional, therefore significance for control or clearance of hrHPV lesions is not clear. We are addressing these knowledge gaps through a comprehensive unbiased longitudinal analysis of large cohorts of women that encompass multiple genotypes and diverse durations and outcomes of hrHPV infections. 

hpv therapeutic vaccination

Despite an efficacious prophylactic human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine there is still a considerable global burden of HPV-related disease. Therapeutic vaccines that could prevent cancers in at-risk women are urgently needed. Most candidate therapeutic vaccines have focused on two hrHPV genotypes, 16 and 18, and two viral targets, E6 and E7, which may limit global coverage and efficacy. To address these issues, we developed a multi-genotype immunogen that comprises segments from each of the early proteins and is delivered by replication-deficient chimpanzee adenovirus and MVA vectors. This immunogen is predicted to provide coverage of 85% of circulating global hrHPV genotypes that cause cervical cancer and builds upon existing concepts focusing predominantly on E6/E7 from HPV16/18. The vaccine is now in a Phase 1b/2 multi-centre study evaluating the safety, efficacy and immunogenicity of prime-boost vaccines ChAdOx1-HPV and MVA-HPV in women with HPV related low grade cervical lesions. Read more about the study in The Guardian. If you are interested, please contact the research team on

vaccination route

Efficacy of a vaccine depends not only on antigen selection and delivery system, but also route of immunisation. Cervical intraepithelial lesions are restricted to the genital mucosa and therefore for a hrHPV therapeutic vaccine to be effective it may need to induce immune effector cells at the site of disease. We are developing a method for intracervical vaccination of mice, based upon the method of transcervical embryo transfer (TCET). By using GFP expressing viral vectored vaccines we can monitor in real-time vaccine uptake in the cervix by fluorescence imaging. We will investigate the frequency and functionality of vaccine-specific T cells following homologous systemic or mucosal prime boost immunisation compared with heterologous systemic prime and mucosal boost immunisation.