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Dr Kerry Hilligan

Team Leader - Ronchese Laboratory

Dr Kerry Hilligan is a Team Leader in the Ronchese Laboratory and a former International Research Fellow in Dr Alan Sher's laboratory at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, USA.

Kerry joined the Malaghan Institute in 2012 to undertake post-graduate research in the Ronchese Lab. Her research has centred around a rare population of innate immune cells, known as antigen-presenting cells (APC), that play vital role in initiating and shaping immune responses. Having spent several years in the Sher laboratory Dr Hilligan returned to the Malaghan Institute in late 2022.

Research interests

"I am interested in understanding the innate immune pathways involved in initiating and shaping adaptive immune responses. I have a particular interest in antigen-presenting cell populations, which are known play an important role in dictating the outcome of immune responses. I am working to understand the mechanisms by which various antigen-presenting cell subsets recognise and respond to material from different pathogens and allergens, and ultimately, regulate the function of effector immune cells. The aim of this research is to inform vaccine design and assist with therapeutic strategies for autoimmune and allergic diseases.

"I am currently investigating how the immunological history of an individual may shape the composition and function of their antigen-presenting cells compartment. I am using pre-clinical models to test the effects of various inflammatory and infectious stimuli on the developmental trajectory and functional capacity of APC populations in both the short- and long-term."



Hilligan KL, Namasivayam S, Clancy CS, Baker PJ, Old SI, Peluf V, Amaral EP, Oland SD, O'Mard D, Laux J, Cohen M, Garza NL, Lafont BAP, Johnson RF, Feng CG, Jankovic D, Lamiable O, Mayer-Barber KD, Sher A (2023). Bacterial-induced or passively administered interferon gamma conditions the lung for early control of SARS-CoV-2. Nat Commun. 14(1):8229

Hilligan KL, Namasivayam S and Sher A (2023) BCG mediated protection of the lung against experimental SARS-CoV-2 infection. Front. Immunol. 14:1232764

Oyesola OO, Hilligan KL, Namasivayam S, Howard N, Clancy CS, Zhao M, Oland SD, Kiwanuka KN, Garza NL, Lafont BAP, Johnson RF, Mayer-Barber KD, Sher A, Loke P (2023). Exposure to lung-migrating helminth protects against murine SARS-CoV-2 infection through macrophage-dependent T cell activation. Sci Immunol. 8(86):eadf816

Montgomerie I, Bird TW, Palmer OR, Mason NC, Pankhurst TE, Lawley B, Hernández LC, Harfoot R, Authier-Hall A, Anderson DE, Hilligan KL, Buick KH, Mbenza NM, Mittelstädt G, Maxwell S, Sinha S, Kuang J, Subbarao K, Parker EJ, Sher A, Hermans IF, Ussher JE, Quiñones-Mateu ME, Comoletti D, Connor LM; On behalf theVAANZ Group (2023). Incorporation of SARS-CoV-2 spike NTD to RBD Protein Vaccine Improves Immunity Against Viral Variants. iScience. 26(4):106256


Lage SL, Amaral EP, Hilligan KL, Laidlaw E, Rupert A, Namasivayan S, Rocco J, Galindo F, Kellogg A, Kumar P, Poon R, Wortmann GW, Shannon JP, Hickman HD, Lisco A, Manion M, Sher A, Sereti I (2022). Persistent Oxidative Stress and Inflammasome Activation in CD14highCD16- Monocytes From COVID-19 Patients. Front Immunol. 12:799558


Hilligan KL, Namasivayam S, Clancy CS, O'Mard D, Oland SD, Robertson SJ, Baker PJ, Castro E, Garza NL, Lafont BAP, Johnson R, Ronchese F, Mayer-Barber KD, Best SM, Sher A (2022). Intravenous administration of BCG protects mice against lethal SARS-CoV-2 challenge. J Exp Med. 219(2):e20211862.

Mayer JU, Hilligan KL, Chandler JS, Eccles DA, Old SI, Domingues RG, Yang J, Webb GR, Munoz-Erazo L, Hyde EJ, Wakelin KA, Tang SC, Chappell SC, von Daake S, Brombacher F, Mackay CR, Sher A, Tussiwand R, Connor LM, Gallego-Ortega D, Jankovic D, Le Gros G, Hepworth MR, Lamiable O, Ronchese F (2021). Homeostatic IL-13 in healthy skin directs dendritic cell differentiation to promote TH2 and inhibit TH17 cell polarization. Nat Immunol. 2021 Nov 18


Hilligan, K.L., Tang, SC., Hyde, E.J. et al. Dermal IRF4+ dendritic cells and monocytes license CD4+ T helper cells to distinct cytokine profiles. Nat Commun 11, 5637 (2020). 

Hilligan KL, Ronchese F (2020). Antigen presentation by dendritic cells and their instruction of CD4+ T helper cell responses. Cell Mol Immunol. 17(6):587-599

Ronchese F, Hilligan KL, Mayer JU (2020). Dendritic Cells and the Skin Environment. Curr Opin Immunol. 64:56-62.


R Blecher-Gonen, P Bost, KL Hilligan, E David, T Meir-Salame, B Cohen-Toth, E Roussel, JU Mayer, LM Connor, S Itzkovitz, B Schikowski, F Ronchese, I Amit, (2019). Single-Cell Analysis of Diverse Pathogen Responses Defines a Molecular Roadmap for Generating Antigen-Specific Immunity. Cell Syst. doi: 10.1016/j.cels.2019.01.001.


LM Connor, S-C Tang, E Cognard, S Ochiai, KL Hilligan, SI Old, C Pellefigues, RF White, D Patel, AAT Smith, DA Eccles, O Lamiable, MJ McConnell and F Ronchese, (2017). Th2 responses are primed by skin dendritic cells with distinct transcriptional profiles. J Exp Med. doi: 10.1084/jem.20160470


KL Hilligan, LM Connor, AJ Schmidt and F Ronchese, (2016). Activation-Induced TIM-4 Expression Identifies Differential Responsiveness of Intestinal CD103+ CD11b+ Dendritic Cells to a Mucosal Adjuvant. PLoS ONE 11(7): e0158775. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0158775.