Professor Latchman has led research activity for over thirty years in two major areas:


Gene Regulation and Transcription

Studies from his laboratory have involved aspects of the basic question whereby the same DNA is present in all cells but the manner in which this DNA is read out to produce proteins differs in different tissues and cell types. This is fundamental to the different characteristics and functioning of such tissues and cell types. Professor Latchman and his group have analysed the role of a number of specific transcription factors in regulating gene expression, particularly in the brain.

Herpes Simplex Virus 

Professor Latchman’s laboratory initially studied the mechanism of latency in neuronal cells whereby HSV can establish silent infections of such cells and serve as a reservoir for the development of active surface infections producing facial cold sores or genital sores. His studies implicated a specific cellular transcription factor in inhibiting the virus in neuronal cells. In turn, such studies led to the development of HSV-based viral vectors designed to deliver genes to specific cell types (including neuronal cells) in gene therapy procedures. One such virus has been partially inactivated so that it only grows in dividing cells and not in non-dividing cells. This allows it to specifically replicate in tumour cells killing them without damaging the surrounding normal non-dividing cells. This vector (also including the gene for GM-CSF which stimulates an immune response to tumour cells) is now in clinical use treating patients with terminal melanoma where it produces a significant increase in life expectancy.

In 2013, a number of allegations were made regarding research published during his leadership of the Institute of Child Health. In 2015, a UCL investigation found that Professor Latchman had “no case to answer” regarding the research. In 2016, a further investigation opened into a number of other research papers. During this investigation two researchers were found guilty of manipulating images in several published papers. However, both scientists had since left UCL and therefore no formal disciplinary procedures could take place. The investigation concluded in 2017, with the investigating panel finding that Professor Latchman had “no knowledge of, or involvement, in the image manipulation identified”. In addition, the hearing found that Professor Latchman’s management of his UCL research programme was not at fault.