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Welcome to the McGovern lab


My team researches mononuclear phagocytes in health and disease. We utilise a range of technologies to understand these cells including transcriptomics, epigenetics and organoids.

Techniques we use to understand cell biology


Naomi McGovern, PhD

I obtained my BSc in Biochemistry at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, and my PhD at the Department of Medicine, University of Cambridge, UK.  


I carried out my postdocs in the laboratories of Prof. Matthew Colin, University of Newcastle, UK and Dr, Florent Ginhoux, Singapore Immunology Network, Singapore. There we characterised dendritc cell, monocyte and macrophage subsets across a range of human adult and fetal tissues. In Singapore I was awarded an ASTAR Young Investigator Award.


I established my lab in the Department of Pathology, University of Cambridge in 2017 when I was awarded a Sir Henry Dale and Royal Society Fellowship. In 2023 I was awarded the ERC Consolidator Awar, funded by UKRI.

Holly Anderson, MSc

Holly obtained her undergraduate Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry at Sheffield Hallam University. She completed a Master of Research in Medical Genetics with Immunology at Newcastle University. Research projects have included investigating host-pathogen interactions with a focus on hypoxia signalling using a zebrafish tuberculosis model, and molecular genetic and epigenetic analysis of a novel osteoarthritis susceptibility hand locus.

Holly joined the Department of Pathology at the University of Cambridge in 2021, working as a Research Assistant in the Moffett group investigating how interactions between maternal immune cells and trophoblast cells influence pregnancy success. Holly joined the McGovern group in June 2023. Her current research project aims to further develop culture conditions for human placental cells to expand our understanding of their functional properties.


Trophoblast organoid

Joseph (Joe) Hutton

PhD student | MRC Clinical Research Training Fellow


Joe grew up in Oxford and completed his undergraduate medical training and Immunology BSc at the University of Bristol. He completed his foundation years training in the Severn Deanery, including additional roles as Foundation Education Fellow before working as a medical registrar and rheumatology research fellow in the University of Auckland, New Zealand.


He returned to the UK as a NIHR academic rheumatology research fellow, and obtained funding from the Evelyn Trust and MRC for his PhD exploring the role of monocytes, macrophages, and dendritic cells in a common immune-mediated inflammatory disease, psoriatic arthritis. He hopes to enable the development of new selective therapies to stop immune cell infiltration to diseased tissues.

Osteoclasts (bone macrophages)

Nagisa Yoshida, PhD

Nagisa obtained her BSc and MRes at Imperial College London with a focus on Immunology. Research projects included characterizing tumour-infiltrating leukocytes in the mouse model and studying the impact of high cholesterol on gut inflammation using the zebrafish model. As a research technician at the National Institute of Medical Research, she investigated the effect of T cell receptor sequences on the phenotype of memory CD8 T cells during chronic Toxoplasma gondii infection. For her joint-PhD project (Imperial College London/Francis Crick Institute based at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine), she combined her expertise in the zebrafish model with her interest in Toxoplasma gondii infection to establish a novel model to study host-pathogen interaction in vivo.


Nagisa joined the McGovern lab as a PDRA at the Department of Pathology, University of Cambridge in 2020. Her current research project focuses on host-pathogen interaction at the maternal-fetal interface.

HBC PAthogens v2.png


Image of Listeria monocytogenes (green) infected macrophages (red). Nuclei are blue.

Qian Li, PhD

Qian utilises and develops bioinformatic approaches to study placenta development and  decidua biology

Emily Konstantinou, BSc


Emily is researching the interaction of human cytomegalovirus with placental cells.

HCMV is a member of the viral family of Herpesviridae, and like all herpesviruses, establishes latency and life-long persistent infection in the host.

Congenital CMV infection is the most common viral infection of the human fetus in high income countries and it occurs in around 0.7% of newborns. Approximately half of symptomatic newborns with congenital CMV infection will have disabilities including sensorineural hearing loss, intrauterine growth restriction, developmental disability, cognitive impairment, cerebral palsy, and impaired vision. Asymptomatic HCMV infected newborns have a probability of 5-15% of developing disabilities. Despite the global importance of this infection, the interaction of HCMV with placental cells remains poorly understood.


Kate Rebenko (Катерина Ребенко), BSc

Illustration of organoid cultures

Visiting student


Kateryna obtained her Bachelor's degree in Biology in the Institute of Biology and Medicine of KNU in Kyiv. Currently, she’s doing a Master’s program Integrated Immunology at FAU Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany and taking her half-year internship abroad in the Pathology Department of Cambridge University. Her current research aims to develop and characterize placental organoids.

Lucy Gardner

Lucy has diverse roles in the lab, including lab management and overseeing sample storage and maintenance.

She is an expert in immuno-histochemistry and has trained many students in this technique during her time in Cambridge.

HBC in 1st trimester placental villous, immunostained with anti-CD14 (black arrow). Syncytiotrophoblast overlying villous core is clearly visible (blue arrow).

Key Publications

  * Joint First author­­­, # Corresponding author

  1. Primitive haematopoiesis in the human placenta gives rise to macrophages with epigenetically silenced HLA-DR. #. Nature Communications (2023) PMID: 36997537

  2. Subset-defining markers reveal the phenotype and functional properties of human embryonic macrophages, Hofbauer cells. Thomas JR, Appios A, Zhao X, Dutkiewicz R, Donde M, Lee C, Naidu P, Lee C, Cerveira J, Liu B, Ginhoux F, Burton G, Hamilton R.S, Moffett A, Sharkey A, #. (2021) PMID: 33075123

  3. Isolation of First-Trimester and Full-Term Human Placental Hofbauer cells. Appios A , JR, McGovern N#. BioProtocol (2021) PMID: 34250210

  4. Human foetal dendritic cells promote prenatal T-cell immune suppression through arginase-2. McGovern N, Shin A, Low G, D, Duan K, Yao LJ, Msallam R, Low Shadan NB, Sumatoh HR, Soon E, Lum J, Mok E, Hubert S, See P, Kunxiang EH, Lee YH, Janela B, Choolani M, Mattar CNZ, Fan Y, Lim TKH, Chan DKH, Tan KK, Tam JKC, Schuster C, Elbe-Bürger A, Wang XN, Bigley V, Collin M, Haniffa M, SchlitzerA, Poidinger M, Albani S, Larbi A, Newell EW, Chan JKY, Ginhoux F. (2017). PMID:28614294

  5. Unsupervised High-Dimensional Analysis Aligns Dendritic Cells across Tissues Species. Guilliams M*, Dutertre CA*, Scott CL*, McGovern N*, Sichien D, Chakarov S, Van Gassen S, Chen J, Poidinger M, De Prijck S, Tavernier SJ, Irac SE, Mattar CN, Sumatoh HR, Low GHL, Chung TJK, Chan DKH, Tan KK, Hon TLK, Fossum E, Bogen B, Choolani M, Chan JKY, Larbi A, Luche Henri S, Saeys Y, Newell EW, Lambrecht BN, Malissen B, Ginhoux F. (2016).PMID:27637149

  6. Human Dermal CD14Cells Are a Transient Population of Monocyte-Derived Macrophages. McGovern N*, Schlitzer A*, Gunawan M, Jardine L, Shin A, Poyner E, Green K, Dickinson R, Wang XN, Low D, Best K, Covins S, Milne P, Pagan S, AljefriK, Windebank M, Miranda-Saavedra D, Larbi A, Wasan PS, Duan K, Poidinger M, Bigley V, Ginhoux F, Collin M, Haniffa M. (2014).PMID:25200712

  7. A Three-Dimensional Atlas of Human Dermal Leukocytes, Lymphatics, and Blood Vessels. Wang XN, McGovern N, Gunawan M, Richardson C, Windebank M, Siah TW, Lim HY, Fink K, Yao Li JL, Ng LG, Ginhoux F, Angeli V, Collin M, Haniffa M. (2014).PMID:24352044

  8. IRF4 transcription factor-dependent CD11b+ dendritic cells in human and mousecontrol mucosal IL-17 cytokine responses. Schlitzer A*, McGovern N*, Teo P, Zelante T, Atarashi K, Low D, Ho AW, See P, Shin A, Wasan PS, Hoeffel G, Malleret B, Heiseke A, Chew S, Jardine L, Purvis HA, Hilkens CM, Tam J, Poidinger M, Stanley ER, Krug AB, Renia L, Sivasankar B, Ng LG, Collin M, Ricciardi-Castagnoli P, Honda K,Haniffa M, Ginhoux F. (2013).PMID:23706669

  9. Human tissues contain CD141cross-presenting dendritic cells with functional homology to mouse CD103nonlymphoid dendritic cells. Haniffa M, Shin A, Bigley V, McGovern N, Teo P, See P, Wasan PS, Wang XN, Malinarich F, Malleret B, Larbi A, Tan P, Zhao H, Poidinger M, Pagan S, Cookson S, Dickinson R, Dimmick Jarrett RF, Renia L, Tam J, Song C, Connolly J, Chan JK, Gehring A, Bertoletti A, Collin M, Ginhoux F. (2012).PMID:22795876

  10. Hypoxia selectively inhibits respiratory burst activity killing of Staphylococcus aureus in human neutrophils. McGovern N, Cowburn AS, Porter L, Walmsley SR, Summers C, Thompson AAR, Anwar S, Willcocks LC, Whyte MKB, CondliffeAM, Chilvers ER. (2011).PMID:21135168


Literature reviews:

  1. The ontogeny and function of placental macrophages. Thomas JR, Naidu P, Appios A, McGovern N. (2021). PMID: 34745147

  2. Protocols for the Identification and Isolation of Antigen-Presenting Cells in Humanand Mouse Tissues. , Schlitzer A, Janela B, Ginhoux F.(2016).PMID:27142016

  3. Dendritic cells in humans - from fetus to adult. , Chan JK, GinhouxF. International Immunology (2015). PMID:25323843

  4. Dendritic cells and monocyte-derived cells: Two complementary andintegrated functional systems. Schlitzer A, Ginhoux F. (2015).PMID:25957517

  5. Human dendritic cell subsets. Collin M, Haniffa M. (2013). PMID:23621371

  6. The HIF/VHL pathway: from oxygen sensing to innate immunity. Walmsley S, , Whyte MK, Chilvers ER. (2008). PMID:17932373

Lab Photos

Christmas Dec 2023.jpg

Lab photo before Christmas lunch 2023

COVID Photo.jpg

Lab photo between COVID lockdowns 2020

Previous Lab members

Jake R. Thomas

​Anna Appios

Praveena Naidu

Roksana Dutkiewicz



Department of Pathology,

Tennis Court Road,



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ERC award funded by UKRI

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