Mechanisms of induction of protective lung tissue resident memory cells against influenza

Influenza is a global health threat to humans and livestock and animal influenza viruses are the CDC’s top zoonotic pathogen. There is a critical need to develop vaccines that provide broad protection and decrease the need for annual immunisation.

Start date
1 October 2021
Duration
3.5 years
Application deadline
Funding information

This is a 3.5 year fully funded studentship open to UK nationals. Funding includes a minimum annual stipend of £15,609 plus a cost of living top-up allowance of £2,200 per annum. Home rated university tuition fees will be paid. EU and international applicants are welcome to apply and all students are eligible for the full award (stipend and home rated university tuition fees). 

From 1st August 2021, EU and International students will be liable for tuition fees at the international rate and must be able to fund the difference between “Home” and “Overseas” tuition fees themselves. For Home student eligibility guidelines, please refer to the UKRI

Full Eligibility Criteria (Annex One).

Funding source
The Pirbright Institute

About

Influenza is a global health threat to humans and livestock and animal influenza viruses are the CDC’s top zoonotic pathogen. There is a critical need to develop vaccines that provide broad protection and decrease the need for annual immunisation.

We have established a powerful pig influenza model to study immunity to influenza. Pigs are a natural host for the same subtypes of influenza virus as humans and have the same distribution of sialic acid receptors in their respiratory tract. The pig is immunologically, physiologically and anatomically more similar to humans than small animals.

Lung tissue-resident memory T and B cells (TRM and BRM) are critical for cellular immunity to influenza and other respiratory pathogens. TRM and BRM are most effectively induced by natural infection or mucosal delivery of vaccines. However the factors necessary for their generation and maintenance are not well understood, but both the method of antigen administration and the nature of the antigen itself may play a crucial role. In this project we shall investigate the generation and properties of TRM and BRM induced by H1N1pdm09 influenza infection or mucosal immunisation with adenoviral vectored vaccine expressing influenza internal (nucleoprotein) and external (hemagglutinin) proteins.

The student will have the opportunity for the first time to dissect the mechanisms of induction of TRM and BRM in a large natural host animal model and to establish their role in immunity to influenza. The student will:

  1. Define the phenotype and function of TRM and BRM following infection or immunisation.
  2. Characterise the inductive microenvironment in the lung following infection or immunisation.
  3. Adopt an unbiased data driven transcriptomic approach to identify TRM and BRM from well protected or poorly protected animals.

The student will be exposed to the unique scientific environment in Pirbright and Surrey which offer complementary skills and facilities. The student will also have the opportunity to collaborate with human immunologists from Oxford and Imperial College London. The proposed studies will determine whether alterations in the mode of priming affect the nature of the TRM and BRM response. This will be a crucial step in the more rational development of novel vaccine strategies for influenza and other respiratory diseases.

Supervisors:

  • Dr Elma Tchilian (The Pirbright Institute)
  • Prof Christine Rollier (University of Surrey)
Related links
The Pirbright Institute

The student will be based primarily at The Pirbright Institute and registered with the University of Surrey. The student will visit the university to meet with their supervisors and undertake training or complete specific project tasks as required. A full range of research and transferrable skills training will be made available to the student at both The Pirbright Institute and the University of Surrey.

Eligibility criteria

This studentship is open to science graduates with, or who anticipate obtaining, at least a 2:1 or equivalent, in a relevant biological subject in their undergraduate degree, or a Masters degree, subject to university regulations. Other first degrees, e.g. veterinary science, will be considered. You should be looking for a challenging, interdisciplinary research training environment and have an active interest in the control of infectious diseases.

UK students.  EU and international students are welcome to apply, however from 1st August 2021, EU and International students will be liable for tuition fees at the international rate and must be able to fund the difference between “Home” and “Overseas” tuition fees themselves.

IELTS requirements: Students without English as a first language must provide evidence that they meet the English language requirement, e.g. with an IELTS score of 7.0, with no lower than 7.0 in listening/reading and no lower than 6.5 in speaking/writing.

How to apply

Applications for this studentship must be made to The Pirbright Institute, not to the University of Surrey.


Application deadline

Contact details

Yvonne Walsh

studentship@pirbright.ac.uk

Tel: 01483 868230

The Pirbright Institute is a world leading centre of excellence in research and surveillance of virus diseases of farm animals and viruses that spread from animals to humans. We receive strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), and work to enhance capability to contain, control and eliminate these economically and medically important diseases through highly innovative fundamental and applied bioscience. The Institute employs around 350 staff, research students and visiting scientists, and is based in Pirbright, Surrey, where investment by BBSRC has resulted in a redevelopment of the site and the construction of a high level containment facility – the BBSRC National Virology Centre: The Plowright Building and a SAPO level two facility, The Jenner Building. 

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