New role for Centre Director

After 20 years as a cancer scientist at the University of Southampton and spending the last six years spearheading the campaign for the Centre for Cancer Immunology and leading the Centre itself, Professor Tim Elliott will take on a new challenge in the new year as Kidani Chair of Immuno-oncology at the University of Oxford.

Professor Elliott will continue to lead the Elliott James Laboratory Group at the Centre in Southampton and work to foster the relationship between the two leading institutions. In his new role, he will provide focus to the cancer research take place in Oxford and build training programmes in cancer immunology.

Professor Elliott said: “I will be able to use my experience and the success we have built in Southampton as a working example of how to approach cancer immunology in other centres of excellence. Oxford is one of the best places in the world for immunology and I hope the future brings exciting new collaborations between researchers in Oxford and Southampton and that we can train a new generation of cancer immunologists who value the importance of taking their discoveries into the immunotherapy clinic, like those we have trained in Southampton over the years.”


I will be able to use my experience and the success we have built in Southampton as a working example of how to approach cancer immunology in other centres of excellence

Professor Tim Elliott, Centre Director

The campaign

Professor Elliott played a key role in the campaign to build the Centre for Cancer Immunology and when it opened in Spring 2018, he took on the role of Director.

“It has been great to see how the different cancer research groups have come together since we opened,” he reflects. “There is so much more mixing between groups than there was before we moved into the new building, and the level of co-operation and mutual support is high.  A great illustration of this is how the team pulled together during the pandemic – we were working on plans for a phased and safe return to the labs from the beginning of the first lockdown and the smooth implementation has been helped by a strong collegial approach. I think the COVID-19 crisis has brought us all closer together and that is a real highlight.”

The campaign to raise £25 million to fund the Centre was completed six months ahead of target and philanthropic support continues through the Cancer Immunology Talent Fund, which supports the UK’s first integrated PhD in cancer immunology, brings new technology to the Centre and supports our researchers push the boundaries of cancer research.

Professor Elliott believes the COVID-19 pandemic has shown what can be achieved with large amounts of flexible funding; unprecedented levels of scientific collaboration and openness; and a highly focused mission.

“Our current science funding mechanisms aren’t always attuned to this way of doing research, although they are very good at extracting excellent value for money, thanks to stringent review processes that underpin them,” he said. “In future, I think that adding philanthropic income to the mixed portfolio will be essential to introduce some of that fiscal flexibility into the mix without sacrificing research quality.

“We have been incredibly fortunate to be supported by many people through the campaign to build the Centre and beyond, which we are so grateful for. The Centre is well placed to utilise all its funding streams to support future research which will depend on our ability to quickly assemble teams across multiple disciplines to focus on specific challenges.”

Centre for Cancer Immunology

From PhD student to Professor

Over the years Professor Elliott has held a number of different roles at the University from Director of Research for the School of Medicine to Pro Vice Chancellor (PVC) for Research, all of which had many highlights. But he actually first joined the University as a PhD student in the 1980s and was amongst the key group of immunologists working with cancer immunology pioneer Professor George Stevenson.

In the early 1990’s, his group developed the foundation of antigen presentation, which has gone on to underpin rational T-cell based vaccine design and continues to fuel translational research in Southampton where discoveries in the areas of antigen discovery, T cell regulation and immunodominance are making a significant impact on new and ongoing cancer immunotherapy trials.

Professor Elliott said: “I have done so many different jobs around the University and each one has brought its special rewards and introduced me to outstanding colleagues.

Centre for Cancer Immunology

“Back when Medicine was just one of 27 schools organised into three faculties, I was Director of Research. The highlight was definitely my first REF, which was then called the RAE. It was a great opportunity to meet all the staff in Medicine, learn about their work and weave it into a compelling narrative.

“Another highlight was to work alongside Hywel Morgan in ECS, Hugh Perry and David Shepherd in Biological Sciences to establish the Institute for Life Sciences and see it flourish under the directorship of Professor Peter Smith. It expanded my circle of colleagues and introduced me to dazzling research being done across the Physical sciences, Engineering, Maths and Computer Sciences landscape in Southampton.

“And if course, to play a role in the design and delivery of the UK’s first dedicated facility to cancer immunology research is a career highlight. It has been a privilege to work with an incredible team in development and alumni relations along with donors, supporters and patients on a focussed effort to raise £25m in two years.  The campaign brought the best out in our researchers – many of whom gave enormous amounts of their time and effort towards it.  The fact that we raised over £27m and reached our target in a short space of time, shows how much positive energy can be generated by a great team with a clear mission.”


The future

 Looking to the future, Professor Elliott added: “I will retain strong links with the Centre and my colleagues in Southampton as we continue to push our research forward. Our collaborations with colleagues in chemistry, maths and engineering as well as our clinical links here have been built up over many years and are strong. The future looks very exciting for the Centre and I am looking forward to it.”


I have done so many different jobs around the University and each one has brought its special rewards and introduced me to outstanding colleagues

Professor Tim Elliott, Centre Director