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Developing novel approaches to a vaccine against meningococcal meningitis

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  • Full or part time
    Prof J P Derrick
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Meningococcal meningitis is a serious disease, and is caused by the bacterium Neisseria meningitidis. The search for an effective vaccine against the disease has focused on the outer membrane proteins, particularly those that are exposed on the outer surface and interact with the immune system. My lab has worked on the structures and functions of these proteins for many years; we have a continuing interest in studying how outer membrane proteins interact with immune system molecules, such as antibodies, and how they recognize host cell surface receptors. We are also seeking to turn that fundamental knowledge into practical applications, through the development of new approaches to vaccine formulation. In particular, we will apply the new science of Synthetic Biology to this important area of public health research. Within the context of vaccine design, Synthetic Biology allows the development of new vehicles for vaccine delivery- bacteria which have been modified to promote the immune response, for example. It can also be used to address the problem of antigenic variation, a particular problem in N. meningitidis. The project will therefore encompass a number of techniques, including molecular biology, gene synthesis, protein expression, purification and immunological analysis. The studentship would suit a graduate in Biochemistry, Biotechnology, Chemistry or a related discipline who wishes to apply their skills to vaccine development.

Funding Notes

This project has a Band 2 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website. For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website. Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor.


Saleem, M., Prince, S. M., Rigby, S. E. J., Imran, M., Patel, H., Chan, H., Sanders, H., Maiden, M. C. J., Feavers, I. M. and Derrick, J. P. (2013) Use of a Molecular Decoy to Segregate Transport from Antigenicity in the FrpB Iron Transporter from Neisseria meningitidis. Plos One. 8 DOI e56746

Berry, J.-L., Phelan, M. M., Collins, R. F., Adomavicius, T., Tonjum, T., Frye, S. A., Bird, L., Owens, R., Ford, R. C., Lian, L.-Y. and Derrick, J. P. (2012) Structure and Assembly of a Trans-Periplasmic Channel for Type IV Pili in Neisseria meningitidis. Plos Pathogens. 8 DOI e1002923

Callaghan, M. J., Lewis, S., Sadarangani, M., Bailey, S. E. S., Chan, H., Ferguson, D. J. P., Derrick, J. P., Feavers, I., Maiden, M. C. and Pollard, A. J. (2011) Potential of Recombinant Opa Proteins as Vaccine Candidates against Hyperinvasive Meningococci. Infection and Immunity. 79, 2810-2818

Evans, N. J., Harrison, O. B., Clow, K., Derrick, J. P., Feavers, I. M. and Maiden, M. C. J. (2010) Variation and molecular evolution of HmbR, the Neisseria meningitidis haemoglobin receptor. Microbiology-Sgm. 156, 1384-1393

Harrison, O. B., Evans, N. J., Blair, J. M., Grimes, H. S., Tinsley, C. R., Nassif, X., Kriz, P., Ure, R., Gray, S. J., Derrick, J. P., Maiden, M. C. J. and Feavers, I. M. (2009) Epidemiological Evidence for the Role of the Hemoglobin Receptor, HmbR, in Meningococcal Virulence. Journal of Infectious Diseases. 200, 94-98

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