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Development of New Vaccine Manufacturing Platforms

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  • Full or part time
    Prof C M Smales
    Prof C Robinson
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Biological based medicines (e.g. vaccines, recombinant protein based drugs) have provided us with the ability to prevent, treat and cure a multitude of both communicable (infectious diseases) and non-communicable (non-infectious) diseases globally. For example, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that immunization with appropriate vaccines prevents 2-3 M deaths every year from diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and measles but that a further 1.5 M deaths could be avoided if global vaccination and production was improved. With regard to vaccines, some such as rotavirus and rabies cannot currently be produced at sustainable costs for lower and middle income countries whilst the recent outbreak of yellow fever in central Africa resulted in an increased demand for the vaccine and an exhausting of the global supply which must be secured. For seasonal viruses such as influenza we are poorly equipped to adapt to the evolution of the virus whilst for re-emerging or new viruses we do not have the production capacity or expertise to rapidly respond to these by rapidly generating new vaccines to protect key workers and the wider general population. Animal welfare, and hence farmer return, can also be massively impacted (particularly in lower and middle income countries) by the manufacture of low cost but effective vaccines that prevent diseases that can be catastrophic to individual farmers, countries and regions.

This project will work with our GCRF partners in Thailand to develop new cell based (bacteria and mammalian cells) vaccine manufacturing platforms for the low cost, rapid development of animal and human vaccines. With regard to mammalian systems, although there are established mammalian cell lines for vaccine production (e.g. Madin Darby Canine Kidney (MDCK), HEK and Vero cells) these were not specifically developed for this manufacturing purpose and are not widely adopted commercially due to limited production capacity. With new genome scanning and editing approaches now established and available we have the capacity to engineer or tailor cells specifically to the needs of vaccine production, and even for specific target vaccines. The objectives will be to use cell engineering and CRISPR/Cas9 genome scanning and editing approaches to identify targets that impact on vaccine production using model Vero, HEK, and as an alternative, Chinese hamster ovary (CHO), cell expression systems and then manipulate the target genes that show positive impact on viral vaccine production to generate stably engineered novel hosts for expression of viral and bacterial vaccines. The project will also investigate the controlled manufacture of virus like particles (VLPs) for developing vaccines and presenting antigens against many existing and potentially new threats, undertaking targeted genetic engineering of HEK cells to enhance production of the individual viral protein structural components of VLPs in a more optimised stoichiometry to deliver new host HEK cell lines with the ability to deliver overall higher production amounts of VLPs. We will also investigate new technology developed at Kent in E.coli cells for expression of target antigens for vaccine development. Targets will include those relevant to Thailand and other Lower Middle income countries and the developed technology will be transferred and validated to our partners in Thailand.

For further information please contact Prof Mark Smales at [Email Address Removed]. Applications will be considered until the deadline of 8 June, 2018. Interviews will be held at the Kent site, date to be confirmed.

To apply please go to

Background Information
Kent has established a Global Challenges Doctoral Centre (GCDC) dedicated to doctoral research addressing the challenges of economic development and well-being faced by developing countries on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) list.
The GCDC will become the nucleus of Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) activities at Kent and provide a virtual and physical “location” to discuss and undertake research which identifies solutions to global challenges.
The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) is a £1.5 billion fund announced by the UK Government in late 2015 to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries. Kent has been extremely successful in attracting GCRF funding. It was one of only two universities nationally to have both of its proposals funded in the first RCUK Collective Fund round (2016), with projects led by Professor Elena Korosteleva, School of Politics and International Relations (GCRF COMPASS project on capacity-building in Belarus, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan & Tajikistan) and Professor Colin Robinson, School of Biosciences (GCRF project on the establishment of biopharmaceutical and animal vaccine production capacity in Thailand and SE Asia).

Funding Notes

The University is delighted to be able to offer its first 3.5 year fully funded GCDC doctoral scholarships commencing in the 2018/19 academic year. GCDC scholars will receive the following:

Annual stipend at UKRI rates (£14,777 for 2018/19)
Annual tuition Fees at UKRI Home/EU rates (£4,260 for 2018/19)
A minimum research training support grant of £3500 per annum
Specialised interdisciplinary GCDC cohort training activities

How good is research at University of Kent in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 24.20

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