Prof Christian Ottensmeier, director NIHR CRUK

Christian Ottensmeier

An oncology consultant and researcher specialising in melanoma, leukaemia, and cancers of the chest, Christian Ottensmeier is at the forefront of research into cancer vaccines.


Professor Christian Ottensmeier leads the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre's research into lung cancer.

Skin, eye and chest cancers

Professor Christian Ottensmeier leads research into new immune-based treatments for solid cancers and leukaemia, which work by directing the body’s own defences to attack cancerous cells.

As a consultant oncologist Christian’s clinical research focuses on melanoma (including rare melanomas of the eye) and cancers of the chest. Academically his interest is in developing and then trialing new immune therapies with patients, with a particular interest in cancer vaccines.

Directing clinical trials and linking with industry

A core aim for Christian is to enable early access to new therapies for cancer patients. He and his Southampton colleagues do so by linking clinical services, scientists and leading pharmaceutical companies through the work of the Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre and CRUK centre.   

Christian provides patients with access to a wide range of new treatments through direction of early-stage trials in partnership with leading pharmaceutical companies, which like all his early-stage studies take place in Southampton’s clinical research facility.   

Cancer vaccines

This approach helps the body’s immune system to recognise and kill cancer cells, giving new options for beating cancer; find out more in our focus on immunotherapies.

  • Christian's group's first DNA vaccine showed promising results in early-stage clinical trials for lymphoma, myeloma and prostate cancer.
  • The team has developed several more vaccines and these are being tested in clinical trials for the treatment of several cancers including leukaemia, head and neck cancer, bowel, breast and lung cancer.
  • Christian and his team are improving the design of DNA vaccines and other cancer vaccines with others senior scientists in Southampton, and how they are given to patients.
  • They are also developing techniques to monitor effects on the body’s immune system following treatment, with early trials planned in breast cancer and head and neck cancer.

Collaborations and national roles

Christian works closely with scientific colleagues in the Southampton CRUK Centre, such as Prof Gareth Thomas, Prof Tim Elliott and Prof Martin Glennie  to quickly develop discoveries into trial treatments, in collaboration with clinical researchers at other sites throughout the UK, including Cambridge, Leeds, London and Sheffield.

Christian is also a steering committee member in the European Cancer Immunotherapy collaborative (CIMT) and the US based Cancer Immunotherapy Consortium (CIC). These collaborative groups work towards standardisation of tests that measure success and failure of immune therapies in patients.

Christian is a member of several research funding committees that evaluate  grant applications, including for CRUK.

Training and career

Christian graduated in Münster, Germany and began his specialist training there. After a three year training fellowship in the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, he moved to Southampton where he completed his oncology training and also undertook his PhD. He has been a consultant in medical oncology since 2000.