Professor Helen McShane

Professor of Vaccinology. Group Head: Cellular Immunology and Vaccine Development

Professor Helen McShane first became interested in tuberculosis and HIV while training as a physician in infectious disease.

After qualifying for her medical degree in 1991 Helen worked as a junior physician for a number of years before moving into research. Helen began her PhD with Professor Adrian Hill at the University of Oxford in 1997, during which time she successfully set up a number of pre-clinical models and constructed several candidate tuberculosis vaccines. As a result of her work, Helen received a Wellcome Trust Clinician Science Fellowship in 2001, enabling her to start her own research group in Oxford, and complete her clinical training. Since becoming a clinical consultant in 2003 Helen has divided her time working in both the lab and clinic, while also balancing motherhood.

Having her first child in 2000 while completing her PhD, her second child in 2002 while working as a clinical researcher, and her third child in 2005 as a Senior Research Fellow, Helen believes the balance between work and home life is possible, although she admits it has becomes easier to manage over time.

Since the establishment of her group in 2001 Helen has been working on a new tuberculosis vaccine, MVA85A. While the most recent Phase IIB efficacy trial showed the MVA85A vaccine only induced modest immune responses against TB in infants, and did not improve protection over BCG alone in these infants, Helen’s research has bought us one step closer to finding a cure for this deadly disease.

Helen has been a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow since 2005.

“The nice thing about the Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowships is that the grant pauses when you go on maternity leave, which has been incredibly helpful. I’ve found the Wellcome Trust to be extremely supportive,” Professor McShane says.

“My advice to women looking to pursue a career in science, while also having a family, would be to go for it!

“There’s no reason why you should let any barriers get in your way. It does require a lot of hard work and flexibility, but fortunately science is one career where you can be reasonably flexible,” she continues.

“You have to work hard and make up the time, but you can leave at 4 to pick up the kids then start work again at 8 once you’ve put them to bed. So at times it works quite well. It also helps to have a partner who shares the load – my husband has been incredibly supportive.”