Robert Busch
  • 1053 Parkstead House, Whitelands

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

I am happy to discuss plans for self-funded or externally-funded PhD projects relating to the regulation of antigen presentation to CD4+ T cells and the use of stable isotopes to quantify homeostatic processes in the immune system.

1989 …2023

Research activity per year

Personal profile


  • Dr Busch began his research career by studying how peptides bind to tissue antigens, also known as histocompatibility antigens, MHC molecules or, in humans, HLA antigens. MHC molecules normally bind a very broad repertoire of protein fragments (peptides), which arise from the degradation of proteins (including proteins from infectious agents, if present) by cells. They present these peptides at cell surfaces for detection by T cells of the immune system. This is a key step in the initiation of immune responses to infection, and also plays important roles in vaccination, transplant rejection, and various diseases caused by immune dysfunction, such as allergy and autoimmune disease.
  • After obtaining his PhD, Dr Busch continued his investigations into MHC proteins, first in Germany at the German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, and then in the United States, beginning at the University of Pennsylvania (Children's Hospital of Philadelphia) and continuing at Stanford University. This research focussed on the mechanisms by which cellular factors regulate where and when in the cell peptides are able to bind to MHC class II molecules (a subgroup of MHC molecules that stimulate "helper" and "regulatory" T cells).
  • Dr Busch then worked at a start-up company in California, KineMed, on the development of technologies for probing dynamic processes in living organisms, using non-radioactive tracers, for use in biomarker and drug development, targeted at diseases of the immune system, neurodegenerative diseases, and cancer.
  • Returning to Academia in 2006, Dr Busch worked at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge on biomarkers of blood vessel damage and immune abnormalities in autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and Sjøgren's syndrome. Funded by Cambridge Arthritis Research Endeavour and in collaboration with the Cambridge Centre for Proteomics, he also developed novel ways of quantifying the rates of production and destruction of proteins using stable isotopes and mass spectrometry. A Senior Research Fellowship from Arthritis Research UK enabled him to start a research group at the Department of Medicine, University of Cambridge, in order to investigate the role of MHC class II protein turnover in autoimmune diseases.
  • Dr Busch joined the University of Roehampton as a Senior Lecturer in September 2013, continuing to work on biomarkers and gene/environment interactions in autoimmunity and on applications and development of stable isotope tracer techniques in biomedicine, with funding from MS charities.


  • B.Sc. in Biochemistry and Chemistry (University of Wales, 1987)
  • Ph.D. in Biochemistry (University of London, 1992): "The interaction of peptides with human class II histocompatibility antigens"
  • M.A. (Cantab.)
  • Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (2014)

Research interests

  • Influence of genetic polymorphism on the fate and function of MHC class I and class II molecules
  • Mechanisms of MHC gene associations with autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and several forms of inflammatory arthritis
  • Gene/gene and gene/environment interactions affecting the function of MHC proteins in health and disease
  • Kinetic processes in disease and the development of new methods for quantifying them
  • Immune applications of stable isotope/mass spectrometric techniques to quantify normal and abnormal dynamic processes in the immune system

Research projects

  • Dr Busch has held a Research Progression Award from Arthritis Research UK and a Small Grant from Diabetes UK for studies on the role of MHC protein turnover in autoimmune pathogenesis. Follow-up studies on this topic continue with project grant funding from the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society (UK) and with a McDonald Fellowship from the MS International Federation for a PhD project. The PhD project also explored the role of vitamin D (implicated in the prevention of MS pathogenesis) and retinoids in the regulation of MHC class II protein expression and peptide loading in cell lines.
  • He co-supervises a postgraduate research project at the Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge, which is funded by the National Centre for the 3Rs and aimed at improving stable isotope techniques for quantifying cell division and cellular life span.
  • He is a co-investigator on an Arthritis Research UK-funded study of T cells in patients undergoing B-cell depletion therapy for Sjogren's syndrome.
  • He has collaborated on a Wellcome Trust-funded project to determine the impact of KIR/HLA interactions on T-cell turnover in healthy individuals and those with chronic viral infections. Related projects in autoimmune diseases are being developed.

Professional affiliations

  • British Society for Immunology
  • Biochemical Society
  • American Association of Immunologists
  • American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


Teaching roles have included (* = current):

  • Programme Convener and Cohort Lead, BSc Biomedical Science*
  • Module Convener for Cell Biology (BSS020C141S)*
  • Past Module Convener and project proposal supervisor, Biosciences Research Methods (BSS020N231Y)
  • Final-year undergraduate dissertation project supervisor, Biomedical and Biological Sciences (BSS020X317Y and X315Y respectively)
  • Lecturing and practical supervision on other modules (Chemistry of Life*, Introduction to Human Disease*, Principles of Human Nutrition*, Immunology*, Physiology and Metabolism*, Human Epidemiology and Pathophysiology*, and previously Advances in Nutrition and Health)
  • Academic Guidance Tutor for undergraduate students in Biomedical Science
  • Available to supervise Master's degree dissertations.

Research studentship applications may be routed through any suitable degree programme in the Department of Life Sciences (PGDip, MSc, MRes, or MPhil/PhD in a relevant field). Prospective applicants should approach Dr Busch first to discuss suitable topics and funding arrangements.

Prior teaching experience includes:

  • Development and delivery of cross-disciplinary curricula in Medicine for non-clinicians (Cambridge and Stanford)
  • Small-group supervisions (Cambridge)

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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