Breaking the Glass Ceiling for Female Researchers

19 July 2018
Dr Jayne Sutherland advocates the support of young female researchers in order to access top level positions.

Dr Jayne Sutherland is currently Head of the Tuberculosis (TB) Research group at MRC Unit The Gambia, which provides a unique opportunity for multi-disciplinary research on TB using the long-running TB case-contact (TBCC) platform. The TBCC platform is run in close collaboration with the national TB program to promote health systems strengthening and public engagement. Underpinning all our studies is fundamental science to determine mechanisms, risk factors, host-directed therapies and prognostic markers for TB infection and disease.

Jayne is currently Principal Investigator (PI) on a European Union (EU) funded project for TB vaccine development, site-PI and member of the steering committee for a TB biomarker study (GC6-2013) and site-PI for an European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP) funded project seeking to develop a point of care test for TB diagnosis.

Dr Jayne Sutherland,
Head of the Tuberculosis Research

Current research projects in her laboratory include defining the role of non-classical T cells and other innate cells in the early response to Mtb infection; correlates of risk for progression to active TB; immunity at the site of infection; immune responses to M. africanum (a prevalent strain in West Africa) compared to M. tuberculosis; and immunity to TB in the context of HIV and other co-infections (including Influenza).

Jayne joined MRCG in 2006 as part of a Bill Gates multi-site consortium (GC6) looking at biomarkers for TB ‘risk’. This project is just now coming to full fruition, and a 4-gene signature to predict which of the 2 billion people infected with TB worldwide will progress to active disease has been developed. This will enable targeted therapy in a cost-effective manner. Prior to joining The Unit she worked on Cancer immunotherapy, which was her PhD topic in Melbourne, and early post-doc in London.

Moving to TB was not technically difficult but certainly posed challenges in regards to generating a track record for funding applications. The GC6 consortium provided Jayne with long-term mentorship and support, particularly from Dr Martin Ota, Prof Stefan Kaufmann, Prof Gerhard Walzl and Prof Hazel Dockrell.

In 2012 she took over as Head of the TBCC platform and TB immunology laboratory when Dr Ota took a position at WHO. “This was a monumental step for me, I had to prove my worth to the male-dominated teams I worked with and also to people who had known me as a young post-doctoral student. However, I had an excellent example of female leadership in Professor Beate Kampmann who has provided tireless support for my career trajectory.” explains Dr Sutherland.