Ashley Otter


  • UK Health Security Agency, Porton Down

    SP4 0JG

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Personal profile

Research interests

Ash Otter is the principal investigator of the Emerging Pathogen Serology group. This group was formally established during the COVID-19 pandemic as a high-throughput serology laboratory to aid in understanding the spread of SARS-CoV-2 through population-level serosurveillance. Since then, the laboratory has conducted over 1.3 million SARS-CoV-2 tests to support serosurveillance and research, whilst expanding our remit and research to support the response to a number of national and international outbreaks including Lassa, Mpox (formerly known as Monkeypox), and H5N1.

Emerging Pathogens

As a laboratory, our research interests are primarily within emerging (and reemerging) pathogens, as aligned with WHO's priority pathogen list and the CEPI 100-day mission. In particular, these pathogens include Orthopoxviruses (Mpox, Smallpox), Arboviruses (Dengue, Zika, Chikungunya, Tick-borne encephalitis, West-Nile virus), and Viral-haemorrhagic fevers (Ebola, Lassa, CCHF).

Whilst not classified as emerging, we are also interested in common respiratory pathogens such as SARS-CoV-2, seasonal coronaviruses, RSV and Influenza, using serology to further understand long-term immune responses, vaccine breakthroughs, and reinfections. 

Immunoassay development, utilising high-throughput methods 

At the core of our research are immunoassays, for which we employ diverse methods (ELISA, ECLIA, inhibition, flow cytometry, end-point titres) for a range of internal and externally funded projects. Our expertise is in the development of immunoassays at speed, and moving these assays from low-throughput and manual assays into high-throughput, fully automated systems, providing essential data to support public health responses to outbreaks and ongoing incidents.

Novel technologies and the application of these to emerging pathogens

Whilst traditional serology methods are the mainstay of our work, we are keen to integrate new, emerging, and novel technologies to support public health responses to emerging pathogens. These methods currently focus on high-throughput screening of antigens (yeast-display, CFE, PhIP-seq), but also utilising machine-learning algorithms to provide a mechanism to analyse massively multiplexed (>100) immunoassays. 

Emerging Pathogen Immunology to inform on serosurveillance, vaccine, and diagnostic design 

Using the data gained from our high-throughput and multiplexed assays, we apply this to identify potential antigens for vaccine and diagnostic design. For example, during the Mpox outbreak, we identified a number of antigens that showed promise in discriminating between Smallpox-vaccinated and Mpox-infected. With funding through the MRC IAA we were able to take this data and feed it into the development of an Mpox-specific lateral flow device (LFD). Similarly, using these antigens, we were able to support national serosurveillance (PI: Saunders and Fifer), discriminating between vaccinated and infected individuals to give an accurate seroprevalence of both Smallpox-vaccinated and Mpox-infected within the UK.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, Molecular microbiology of M. tuberculosis, University of London


Award Date: 1 Nov 2019

Bachelor, Microbiology with industrial placement year, Cardiff University


Award Date: 1 Jun 2015

External positions

Editor, Journal of Medical Microbiology, Microbiology Society

2023 → …

Chair, Federation of Infection Societies, Microbiology Society

2023 → …

Chair-Elect, Federation of Infection Societies, Microbiology Society


Visiting lecturer, University of Bath

2022 → …

Visiting lecturer, Plymouth University

2020 → …


  • QR180 Immunology
  • Serology
  • Immunology
  • High-throughput serology
  • Immune responses
  • Immunoglobulin
  • QR355 Virology


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  • Test

    Ashley Otter (Speaker)

    20 Apr 2023

    Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation