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(BBSRC DTP) Plant-based production of a vaccine against gonorrhoea

Project Description

The sexually transmitted disease gonorrhoea is caused by the Gram-negative bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. N. gonorrhoeae is a close relative of Neisseria meningitidis, which causes meningococcal meningitis. Substantial progress has been made towards vaccines against meningitis but the development of an effective vaccine against N. gonorrhoeae has been frustratingly slow. The steep rise in the incidence of antibiotic resistance in N. gonorrhoeae isolates means that efforts to find a suitable vaccine need to be redoubled. This proposal will build on recent work in the Derrick lab to identify Neisseria protein antigens by microarray screening which could function as vaccine components (1). In particular, we will exploit the use of virus-like particles (VLPs) to display N. gonorrhoeae antigens. VLPs have been widely and successfully used as scaffolds for the incorporation and presentation of heterologous antigens. They consist of a single viral protein which is capable of self-assembly into a capsid: it is non-infectious, but provides an ideal platform to stimulate an immunogenic response. In addition, VLPs can be expressed in multiple hosts. In this project, we will express VLPs with N. gonorrhoeae antigens in chloroplasts: this system enables very high expression levels and facilitates the purification of VLPs from isolated chloroplasts (2,3). Plant-based expression systems can be cheaply implemented, particularly in low income countries where vaccines are urgently required and costs need to be kept to a minimum. VLPs produced from the chloroplast-based expression system will then be tested for their ability to raise an antigen-specific antibody response.

Entry Requirements:
Applications are invited from UK/EU nationals only. Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject.

Funding Notes

This project is to be funded under the BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership. If you are interested in this project, please make direct contact with the Principal Supervisor to arrange to discuss the project further as soon as possible. You MUST also submit an online application form - full details on how to apply can be found on the BBSRC DTP website View Website

As an equal opportunities institution we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.


1. Awanye, A. et al. Immunogenicity profiling of protein antigens from capsular group B Neisseria meningitidis. Scientific Reports 6843 (2019).
2. Gisby et al. (2011) A synthetic gene increases TGF beta 3 accumulation by 75-fold in tobacco chloroplasts enabling rapid purification and folding into a biologically active molecule. Plant Biotechnology Journal, 9, 618-628.
3. Day, A. and Goldschmidt-Clermont, M. (2011) The chloroplast transformation toolbox: selectable markers and marker removal. Plant Biotechnology Journal, 9, 540-553.

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