As an undergraduate I studied mathematics at Cambridge but developed an interest in mathematical biology during my time there. I was keen to move into infectious disease modelling in particular and moved to Oxford to start my DPhil with Rodney Phillips and Angela McLean looking at the dynamics and evolution of HIV infection.
During my DPhil I have worked on both within-host evolution of HIV (the dynamics of viral escape from Cytotoxic T-lymphocyte responses) and between-host evolution (whether population-level virulence could be changing in response to widespread use of antiretroviral therapy).
I am currently looking at the dynamics of the viral reservoir within-host and am very interested in the question of why initiating treatment early in infection increases a patient's chance of prolonged post-treatment control. The viral reservoir is the pool of infected cells which persists even after many years of anti-retroviral therapy and from which the virus is able to rebound after the cessation of treatment. This viral rebound usually occurs within days or weeks of treatment interruption but prolonged viral control has been observed in a few patients who started treatment early in infection. We want to provide a mechanistic explanation for why and how treating patients early might change the size and composition of the viral reservoir and hence inform efforts to reduce the reservoir and move towards finding a functional cure.
Roberts, H. E., Hurst, J., Robinson, N., Brown, H., Flanagan, P., Vass, L., ... & McLean, A. R. (2015). Structured observations reveal slow HIV-1 CTL escape. PLoS Genet, 11(2), e1004914.
Payne R., Muenchhoff M., Mann, J., Roberts, H. E., Matthews, P., Adland, E., & Goulder, P. J. R. (2014). Impact of HLA-driven HIV adaptation on virulence in populations of high HIV seroprevalence. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, E5393–E5400.
Roberts, H. E., Goulder, P. J., & McLean, A. R. (2015). The impact of antiretroviral therapy on population-level virulence evolution of HIV-1. Journal of The Royal Society Interface, 12(113), 20150888.