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Characterisation of antigens related to protection against African swine fever virus

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  • Full or part time
    Dr M Montoya
    Dr S Graham
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Applications are invited for a PhD position, starting in October 2016, in a Pirbright Institute-funded project supervised by Dr. M. Montoya. The project will take place at The Pirbright Institute in the Vector Borne Viral Disease Program ( and will involve studying the immunological markers related to protection against African swine fever virus (ASFV).

African swine fever (ASF) is a devastating disease that can result in up to 100% mortality and for which there is no vaccine currently available. Additionally, there is a real risk of ASF incursion into Europe after the recent outbreaks in the Caucasus region, Russia and the Baltic states. Designing a safe and effective vaccine against ASFV is of paramount importance to UK and worldwide.

An understanding of the immunological mechanisms of protection against the ASF virus (ASFV) is required to underpin the efforts to develop vaccines. In order to rationally design vaccines, the relevant virus antigens that induce protective immune responses needs to be characterized and understood. Our previous work has shown that an attenuated strain of ASFV can induce a CD8+ cell dependent protection in inbred pigs against subsequent challenge with virulent strains. This proposal aims to define which parts of ASFV are seen by specific CD8+ T lymphocytes by the immune system of protected pigs. State of the art techniques will be applied in this proposal, such as Bio-Layer Interferometry or peptidome analysis by Mass Spectrometry in collaboration with Oxford University. The information resulting from this multidisciplinary proposal will provide crucial information for designing new vaccines against ASFV.

The successful application will work within the ASFV Immunology group at The Pirbright Institute and be registered with the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Surrey. The project will involve lab work in high containment in the new BBSRC National Virology Centre: The Plowright Building and the student will gain experience in molecular biology, protein biochemistry, molecular and cellular immunology at Pirbright. The cross-disciplinary nature of the research will help prepare the student for a future career in either academia or industry.

Funding Notes

A BBSRC fully funded project open to UK students and eligible EU students who qualify for home-rated fees in line with BBSRC criteria:
Eligible students will receive a minimum tax-free stipend of £14,057 - university fees will be paid.
Open to science graduates (with, or who anticipate, at least a 2.1 or equivalent in a relevant biological subject in an undergraduate degree, or a Masters degree - subject to university regulations). Other first degrees considered.
Students without English as a first language must provide evidence of IELTS score of 7.0, no less than 6.5 in any subsections (or equivalent).


1. Protection of European domestic pigs from virulent African isolates of African swine fever virus by experimental immunisation. King K, Chapman D, Argilaguet JM, Fishbourne E, Hutet E, Cariolet R, Hutchings G, Oura CA, Netherton CL, Moffat K, Taylor G, Le Potier MF, Dixon LK, Takamatsu HH. Vaccine. 20;29(28):4593-600. 2011.
2. Cellular immunity in ASFV responses. Takamatsu HH, Denyer MS, Lacasta A, Stirling CM, Argilaguet JM, Netherton CL, Oura CA, Martins C, Rodríguez F. Virus Res. 2013 Apr;173(1):110-21. 2012
3. Structural mechanism of ER retrieval of MHC class I by cowpox. McCoy WH 4th, Wang X, Yokoyama WM, Hansen TH, Fremont DH. PLoS Biol. 2012;10(11):e1001432. 2012.
4. A common minimal motif for the ligands of HLA-B*27 class I molecules. Barriga A, Lorente E, Johnstone C, Mir C, del Val M, López D. PLoS One. 2014 Sep 30;9(9):e106772. 2014.

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