BBSRC DTP PhD Studentship: Immunity in the face of diversity and the development of protective vaccines against African trypanosomes

Closes: 16 January 2024

Location: University of Nottingham

Project Supervisor: Catarina Gadelha

About the project:

Where possible, disease elimination through vaccination is safe, effective and cheap. Pre-clinical vaccine testing starts with the identification of unique and exposed pathogen components capable of generating a protective immune response (through long-lived antibodies and memory B-cells), and proceeds to the immunisation of a cohort of animals with a potential immunogen, followed by pathogen challenge and monitoring of disease.

This project will use high-throughput proteomics and advanced informatics for the high confidence identification of surface-exposed antigens of African trypanosomes (parasites transmitted by tsetse fly bite in sub-Saharan Africa. Surface-exposed antigens were identified for the in vitro experimental model. This project will investigate which antigens are present in in vivo models, and whether vaccines against them would confer protection. Genome-wide loss-of-fitness screens will identify surface-exposed antigens essential for successful establishment and maintenance of infection. The intersection of protein and DNA data will be used to prioritise vaccine candidates on the basis that essential targets are less likely to be amenable to immune escape. Finally, a population analysis using Next Generation DNA Sequencing will measure the geographic distribution of validated surface antigens that are under diversifying selection, such that to pinpoint the ideal vaccine candidates that offer pan-protection across parasite strains encountered in the whole Africa continent.

Funding Notes:

This fully funded, 4-year PhD project is part of a competition and is funded by the University of Nottingham BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership and is open to students worldwide. Funding will cover tuition fees and stipend at the UKRI rate, plus an annual research grant toward bench consumables.