Professor William Harnett

Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences

Personal statement

I joined the Department of Immunology at Strathclyde University as a lecturer in 1991 and was appointed Professor of Molecular Immunology in 2002. Immunology was one of five University departments, which merged to form Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences (SIPBS) in 2006. I acted as Director of Research in SIPBS from August 2009 until the end of 2013 and was previously Head of The immunology Department during the academic year, 2005-6.

My research interests lie in elucidating the molecular mechanisms by which parasitic worms modulate the host immune system. A particular focus is on ES-62, an anti-inflammatory molecule secreted by the filarial nematode Acanthocheilonema viteae, which we are currently exploiting with a view to developing novel drugs for allergic and autoimmune diseases. This interest in immunology and parasitology also extends to my areas of teaching.


The parasitic worm product ES-62 protects the osteoimmunology axis in a mouse model of obesity-accelerated ageing
Harnett Margaret M, Doonan James, Lumb Felicity E, Crowe Jenny, Damink Roel Olde, Buitrago Geraldine, Duncombe-Moore Josephine, Wilkinson Debbie I, Suckling Colin J, Selman Colin, Harnett William
Frontiers in Immunology Vol 13 (2022)
Mini review : structure and function of nematode phosphorylcholine-containing glycoconjugates
Buitrago Geraldine, Duncombe-Moore Josephine, Harnett Margaret M, Harnett William
Frontiers in Tropical Diseases Vol 2 (2021)
Suppression of inflammatory arthritis by the parasitic worm product ES-62 is associated with epigenetic changes in synovial fibroblasts
Corbet Marlene, Pineda Miguel A, Yang Kun, Tarafdar Anuradha, McGrath Sarah, Nakagawa Rinako, Lumb Felicity E, Suckling Colin J, Harnett William, Harnett Margaret M, Loukas Alex
PLOS Pathogens Vol 17 (2021)
Development of acanthocheilonema viteae in meriones shawi : absence of microfilariae and production of active ES-62
Lumb Felicity E, Doonan James, Corbet Marlene, Pineda Miguel A, Harnett Margaret M, Harnett William
Parasite Immunology Vol 43 (2021)
Temperate propolis has anti-inflammatory effects and is a potent inhibitor of nitric oxide formation in macrophages
Alanazi Samyah, Alenzi Naif, Fearnley James, Harnett William, Watson David G
Metabolites Vol 10 (2020)
The parasitic worm product ES-62 promotes health- and life-span in a high calorie diet accelerated mouse model of ageing
Crowe Jenny, Lumb Felicity E, Doonan James, Broussard Margaux, Tarafdar Anuradha, Pineda Miguel A, Landabaso Carmen, Mulvey Lorna, Hoskisson Paul A, Babayan Simon A, Selman Colin, Harnett William, Harnett Margaret M
PLOS Pathogens Vol 16 (2020)

More publications

Professional activities

Molecular and Cellular Biology of Helminth Parasites IX
Molecular and Cellular Biology of Helminth Parasites IX
The parasitic worm product ES-62: a starting point for novel anti-inflammatory drug development
Invited speaker
Infection and Immunity (Journal)
Editorial board member
International Filariasis Meeting
International Filariasis Meeting
Invited speaker

More professional activities


How does the immunomodulatory parasitic worm product ES-62 rewire bone marrow cells to increase healthspan and lifespan in obesity-accelerated ageing?
Harnett, William (Principal Investigator) Hoskisson, Paul (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2021 - 31-Jan-2024
Does the parasitic worm product ES-62 resolve aberrant chronic inflammation by sensing and normalising the gut microbiome and intestinal integrity?
Harnett, William (Principal Investigator) Hoskisson, Paul (Co-investigator)
10-Jan-2021 - 31-Jan-2024
Efficacy of small molecule analogues of the anti-inflammatory parasitic worm product, ES-62, in protecting against stroke
Carswell, Hilary (Principal Investigator) Harnett, William (Co-investigator)
01-Jan-2020 - 30-Jan-2023
Do Excretory Secretory protein 62 (ES-62) small molecule analogues prevent blood brain barrier breakdown after experimental stroke?
McKittrick, Craig (Research Co-investigator) Carswell, Hilary (Principal Investigator) Harnett, William (Principal Investigator)
01-Jan-2017 - 30-Jan-2017
Can studying the mechanism of action of the parasitic worm-derived immunomodulator ES-62, inform on how to slow ageing and improve healthspan?
Harnett, William (Principal Investigator)
"The introduction of vaccines and drugs to control disease, in combination with greater access to food and improved sanitation, means that people are now living much longer. Currently this increase is staggering, equating to an extra 2.5 years of life per decade. However, improved life expectancy itself amounts to a huge new problem, in that it is not being accompanied by a similar increase in health and wellbeing. This reflects both that like a mechanical machine such as a car engine, the ageing process is naturally associated with a loss of function of its systems due to wear and tear, but also that improved wealth has resulted in a modern Western life-style, incorporating a high fat diet (HFD) that contributes to age-associated ailments such as type-2 diabetes (T2D), stroke and heart disease. This impact of increased lifespan presenting with associated ill-health has enormous socio-economic implications due to its increasingly global scale, arguing for a need to better understand the process of ageing in the context of health.

Approximately one quarter of the world's population is infected with parasitic worms. Of interest, several recent reports indicate that such infections offer protection against development of conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and T2D in mouse models and that similar protection may also be seen in humans. We have been studying one individual parasitic worm component - ES-62, isolated from the secretory products of the filarial nematode, Acanthocheilonema viteae, and consistent with these studies, ES-62 is highly effective in reducing the cardiovascular disease that arises in a highly susceptible strain of mouse, particularly in response to a high fat diet. Moreover, we have some preliminary data showing that ES-62 may offer some protection against development of the obesity that is associated with development of T2D.

Our studies to date with ES-62 also show it to be effective in inhibiting the development of disease in mouse models of allergy, rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus. What all of these diseases have in common with cardiovascular disease and T2D is the increasing realization that they are associated with unwanted inflammation. This immediately offers an explanation for ES-62's protective effects, as the parasitic worm-derived molecule possesses a range of anti-inflammatory properties. Furthermore, as ageing is also now being considered as a biological problem in the setting of chronic low-grade inflammation, this raises the possibility of investigating the effect of ES-62 on the ageing process and late-life health and well being (healthspan). Thus, we specifically plan to determine whether ES-62 can slow ageing and improve healthspan using a paradigm where mice will be fed on a high fat diet +/- ES-62. We will use this model to assess the effect of ES-62 treatment on ageing in the context of promotion of gene signatures and signalling pathways known to be associated with ageing/inflammation versus those associated with longevity and healthspan.

In addition to enabling us to establish whether ES-62's anti-inflammatory properties are impacting on the ageing process at the molecular level as predicted, this strategy might allow us to validate novel biomarkers for ageing and even potential sites of therapeutic intervention. With respect to the latter, we have produced synthetic drug-like small molecule analogues (SMAs) of ES-62 during our work on the allergy and autoimmunity models, with a view to using these as a starting point in novel drug development for these conditions. Thus, although the current application is designed to increase understanding of the biology of ageing rather than drug development, we will conduct a small trial with one of these SMAs towards the final year of the project with a view to submitting future grant applications for impact funding for their development as potential therapies."
01-Jan-2016 - 31-Jan-2019
MIMIC - Do parasitic worms and their secreted immunomudulators protect against musculosketal disease by impacting on the host microbiome?
Harnett, William (Principal Investigator) Hoskisson, Paul (Co-investigator)
MIMIC - Do parasitic worms and their secreted immunomudulators protect against musculosketal disease by impacting on the host microbiome?
01-Jan-2015 - 30-Jan-2018

More projects


Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences
Hamnett Wing

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