Nairobi 2018 scholarships

The IVVN awarded 36 scholarships for master's students, PhD students, postdocs, and senior researchers from 16 countries to attend the first meeting of the IVVN in Nairobi, Kenya on 26 and 27 March 2018.



Marie-Christine Bartens, Royal Veterinary College, UK

I was delighted to have been awarded a scholarship to attend the first meeting of the International Veterinary Vaccinology Network which took place in the beautiful setting of the Ole Sereni Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya. This meeting brought a great community of academic and industrial delegates with a huge interest in vaccinology together, allowing discussion of novel scientific data and global health impacts in light of a wide range of veterinary related diseases. Due to the variety of topics and expertise of the attendees, I certainly gained novel insights into vaccine development, especially in African countries including all its progress and challenges. There were many highlights during this meeting, but as an early career researcher, I particularly enjoyed the poster session, where I was able to talk with multiple and also more experienced researchers about my work. As some attendees are working on similar assays or shared my interest in livestock genetics, I was able to exchange ideas and reflect productively on my work.

The organisation of the conference was extremely well put together, with shuttle buses running between hotels and venue, delicious catering and an absolute smooth course of the whole event. Although the days were long, there was plenty of time between the talks, during coffee breaks or at lunch and dinner, for discussions and as the atmosphere was so friendly and welcoming, one was able to make multiple new contacts. Overall, this first IVVN meeting was a fantastic experience which has greatly benefitted my future research, not only due to the scientific content of the talks and following discussions, but especially as I was able to meet many delegates with shared interests and to form new collaborations. From one new collaborator I will be receiving samples of different cattle breeds which will greatly compliment my current data and with another one we are considering to facilitate a laboratory exchange to be able to conduct some work in a new environment and learn new techniques from each another. Thus, I am truly grateful for the opportunity to attend this meeting and being a member of the IVVN, I am already looking forward to the next meeting.

Peter Muthama, KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Kenya

My name is Peter Muthama, from Kenya. I am currently working under the State Department of Veterinary Services. I have a great research interest in viral zoonotic diseases. I had the privilege of attending the first IVVN meeting that was held in Nairobi as well as make a poster presentation on Rift Valley Fever (RVF) Virus, a part of a project I was working on earlier under supervision of Dr. George Warimwe while at KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kilifi. The meeting was a great success and it was such an honour learning from renowned researchers in the field of veterinary vaccinology. I particularly enjoyed the session on Livestock Vaccination as a driver to achieve the sustainability Development Goals by Prof. Guy Palmer. The presentation was an eye opener to how improved livestock vaccination translates to reduced poverty, better nutrition (good health) and surprisingly it results in more girls accessing quality education! I strongly believe that the steps being made in veterinary vaccinology will eventually translate to improved health care and better living standards.

Sue Dennis, University of Cape Town, South Africa

My name is Sue Dennis and I am currently a PhD candidate in the Biopharming Research Unit at the University of Cape Town, where I am working on the development of a plant-produced virus-like particle vaccine against African horse sickness. I was recently given the chance to attend the first meeting of the IVVN in Nairobi and I would  like to express my sincere gratitude to the Network Management Board for their generosity in affording me this valuable opportunity. The main focus of the meeting was to encourage communication between IVVN members with a view to establishing collaborations between international scientists invested in the development of vaccines against livestock and zoonotic diseases, with a particular emphasis on collaborations with and between Low or Middle Income Countries (LMICs). To this end, there were many opportunities over mealtimes, where we were treated to very tasty and plentiful local dishes, and during tea breaks outdoors, to meet and build relationships with others. Using a rather innovative approach, a “would like to meet” board was also setup to facilitate introductions between potential collaborators  who may perhaps otherwise have missed the chance to do so.  The oral presentations were highly informative and I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to hear, meet and engage with leading researchers in the field of veterinary vaccinology and to be exposed to the latest developments in the field.  It was especially interesting for me personally to meet with Dr. Baptiste Dungu from MCI Sante Animale, who has had many years of experience working with African horse sickness, as well as Prof Sumi Biswas from the University of Oxford, who gave a most interesting presentation on the latest SpyTag/SpyCatcher technology, a strategy which I too have been using in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Copenhagen.

Presenting a poster at the meeting gave me the opportunity to explain my research both to leaders in the field as well as to others who have had little or no experience with protein expression in plants. In particular, researchers from Kenya and the Cameroon showed an interest in possibly visiting our laboratory at the University of Cape Town to learn more about our plant-based expression technology.  Finally, I found the grant-writing workshop on the Sunday afternoon to be most useful, as it provided very practical advice with regard to successfully applying for funding in order to implement some of the dreams and ideas that  ensue from attending a meeting like this. I have no doubt that like me, many left the meeting feeling truly inspired to continue addressing the topic of new and improved veterinary vaccines in a bid to meet the needs of livestock owners in both established and developing countries.  Thank you very much once again for this opportunity!

Pengxiang Chang, The Pirbright Institute, UK

My name is Pengxiang Chang and I am working in the Pirbright Institute. My research focuses on the development of the virus-vectored multivalent influenza virus vaccines using NHEJ CRISPR-Cas9 technology. It is a great honour to win the Early Career Researcher scholarship to attend the first International Veterinary Vaccinology Network in Nairobi, Kenya. The meeting provided an excellent platform to exchange ideas, share resources and meet people from different fields. It is a great chance to gain better understanding the opportunities and obstacles of vaccine development for the livestock disease in the low-and-middle income countries. I really enjoy the talks about the current livestock vaccine market in the African and the new technologies and platform in vaccine innovation. Besides, I think it is really inspiring to hear the story to start a vaccine company. I am looking forward to attend the next IVVN meeting in London next year.

David Lazarus, University of Pretoria, South Africa

My background is a DVM from the University of Maiduguri, Nigeria and an MSc (Veterinary Science) from the University of Pretoria, South Africa. I work as a research scientist at the National Veterinary Research Institute, Vom Nigeria. I am currently a PhD student at the University of Pretoria, Faculty of Veterinary Science, Onderstepoort, South Africa. My PhD is on the epidemiology, vaccination and control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) in cattle and goats. More specifically I am interested in vaccine efficacy and vaccination effectiveness studies. The study of the field effectiveness of vaccines is extremely important in understanding the performance of vaccines and the implementation of a post-vaccination monitoring tool.

I was awarded the IVVN Travel Scholarship to attend the First Scientific Meeting in Nairobi, Kenya from the 24 – 27th March 2018. The award allowed me to participate in a one day grant writing workshop that focused on the IVVN Pump-Priming Grant Application and included resource persons drawn from the UK Medical Research Council and the Royal Veterinary College. I also presented a poster titled “Serological responses of cattle inoculated inactivated trivalent FMD vaccine”, which was among the top three most recommended posters. This award really provided me with the opportunity to network with peers in my field of interest and discuss future research collaborations. As an early career researcher, it also provided me with the opportunity to further develop effective presentation skills. I was highly impressed with all the sessions of the meeting, most especially with the use of synthetic biology for vaccine development, which is a recent addition to the field of vaccinology.

I wish to thank the IVVN for this opportunity, it has had a profound impact on my PhD studies. 

Irene Kiio, ILRI, Kenya

My name is Irene Kiio, a graduate fellow in International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) with research interests on proteomics and vaccinology. The IVVN meeting was a great success with very diverse and informative presentations and discussions. Presentations on approaches in vaccinology such as the use of nanoparticles, virus like particles and use of synthetic biology in vaccine development were quite an illustration on the progress of research technologies on vaccine development. The presentation on the experiences of a startup is a success story of research converted into a product, improved vaccine uptake among farmers with an overall goal to improve their livelihoods. To cap it all, an impressive presentation was made on livestock vaccines driving achievement of the Sustainability Development Goals. These presentations tell a story of vaccines; from the laboratory to the manufacturer and the profound effect these vaccines have on the farmers livelihood.

Rowena Hoare, University of Stirling, UK

I work in the Vaccine Unit at the Institute of Aquaculture, University of Stirling as a Research Fellow. My research interests include vaccine development, proteomics, adjuvants, diagnostics, Luminex technology, cytokines, innate immunity, host-pathogen interactions. I recently developed a vaccine for Rainbow Trout Fry Syndrome caused by Flavobacterium psychrophilum as part of an EU project (TARGETFISH) which aimed to develop new vaccines for European aquaculture species. I am also involved in developing a vaccine for Francisellosis in Tilapia and amoebic gill disease (AGD) using proteomic methods. I recently received a Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre grant, in conjunction with AquaGen, to work on resistance to F. psychrophilum in Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout. I was delighted to receive a scholarship to attend the IVVN meeting in Nairobi and found it a great way to network with other vaccinologists. The grant writing workshop which preceded the meeting was extremely useful for early career researchers to get some pointers on what the funding bodies are looking for in grant applications. Talks on emerging technologies such as Synthetic Biology and Spycatcher/Spytag platforms gave an insight into some of the new approaches to vaccine development. The poster session was well attended, allowing for a large number of projects to be showcased and encouraged interaction among attendees.

Darren Gray, Queen’s University Belfast, UK

The 1st International Veterinary Vaccinology Network meeting in Nairobi provided a excellent opportunity to engage with internationally leading vaccine research groups disseminating the latest scientific advances and challenges in veterinary vaccinology in developed and lower and middle income countries (LMIC).  Currently, I am a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Global Food Security in Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland, specializing in biomarker discovery (proteomics and metabolomics) and on-farm diagnostics for veterinary health applications.  The scholarship provided by IVVN allowed me to present, via poster, the results from a recent pilot project “Proteomic analysis of local disease-sparing responses to bovine respiratory syncytial virus in intranasally vaccinated and challenged calves.”, highlighting the capabilities of our research group to help foster potential future collaborations. 

The IVVN meeting covered a number of topics from African veterinary vaccines and new technologies through to zoonotic diseases, with a particular focus on the challenges faced by LMICs.  I found the talks particularly engaging and combined with a strong audience contribution the meeting had a highly positive atmosphere that was excellent for networking.  My personal highlight talks where from Prof Paul Kaye (University of York) on Leishmaniasis, Prof Guy Palmer (Washing State University) on livestock production to achieve sustainable development goals, Dr Keith Sumption (EuFMD) on Global Vaccine Security and Dr Brian Bigirwa (Brentec Vaccines) on his experience establishing a vaccine start-up in Uganda.  These talks illustrated how a multidisciplinary approach can assist vaccine development for complex pathogens, the economic and social benefits from veterinary vaccination and the challenges and successful strategies for bringing these vaccines to the developing world. The Ole-Sereni was an excellent venue for the conference, with fantastic food, facilities and surroundings.  I would like to thank the IVVN for hosting a thoroughly enjoyable conference and funding the travel scholarship for my attendance.