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EASTBIO A novel stem cell-based platform to compare ASFV resistance and resilience in domestic and wild pigs

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Sunday, January 05, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies / The Roslin Institute

Domesticated pigs are an important source of animal protein for the humans across the world and securing the productivity of pig farming is a global imperative. Currently, commercial pig farming faces a severe threat from the highly contagious, virus borne, disease African Swine Fever (ASF) 1. The ASF virus causes a haemorrhagic fever with a mortality rate of 90-100% that can be transmitted directly by contact with infected pigs or pig meat. Without an effective vaccine the only assured methods for controlling ASFV spread are strict containment and culling of infected herds; strategies with severe welfare implications and very high economic costs. Interestingly, ASFV is endemic to Sub-Saharan Africa where it is carried by the native wild pig species that tolerate ASFV and act as a natural reservoir and source of infection for local domestic pigs 2. An ASFV outbreak in Georgia in 2007 has since spread across Europe and Asia, threatening commercial pig production across these continents. Clearly, understanding the interaction between ASFV and its hosts, and experimental systems to test effective counter-measures, such as vaccines, are urgently required to control the spread of ASFV.

The preferred cellular host for ASFV is the pig macrophage, a white blood cell that is the first line defence against infections. To study ASFV-macrophage interactions we recently adapted a novel cell culture system to generate macrophages in vitro from domestic and wild pig induced pluripotent stem cell lines 3.

The main aims of this project are to characterise the in vitro macrophages, characterise their response to virus infection, and use CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing to investigate host factors that regulate virus-host interactions.

Laboratory work in this project will involve state-of-the-art training in PSC propagation, differentiation and CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing. The student will also gain expertise in gene expression profiling, viral infection of macrophages and a range of immunological assays The student will benefit from learning complementary skills and techniques required for this project in the supervisor’s laboratories. The student will attend weekly research seminars at the Roslin Institute. Opportunities to develop presentation and communication skills will include: presentations at regular lab meetings, one-on-one meetings with supervisor(s) on a 1-2 week basis, critical review of research papers at journal clubs, written skills developed in preparation of PhD annual reports, manuscript preparation, and poster and oral presentations at Roslin/CRM internal seminars and UK/international meetings. Additional Courses covering Research and Career Management, Personal Effectiveness and Networking are provided by the University of Edinburgh, and are offered during the course of research (, tailored to students needs.

All candidates should have or expect to have a minimum of an appropriate upper 2nd class degree. To qualify for full funding students must be UK or EU citizens who have been resident in the UK for 3 years prior to commencement.

Funding Notes

Completed application form along with your supporting documents should be sent to our PGR student team at

Please send the reference request form to two referees. Completed forms for University of Edinburgh, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and the Roslin Institute project should be returned to by the closing date: 5th January 2020.

It is your responsibility to ensure that references are provided by the specified deadline.
Download application and reference forms via:
View Website


1. Sánchez-Cordón PJ, Montoya M, Reis AL, Dixon LK. African swine fever: A re-emerging viral disease threatening the global pig industry. Vet J. 2018;233:41-48. doi:10.1016/j.tvjl.2017.12.025
2. Oura CA, Powell PP, Anderson E, Parkhouse RM. The pathogenesis of African swine fever in the resistant bushpig. J Gen Virol. 1998;79 ( Pt 6):1439-1443. doi:10.1099/0022-1317-79-6-1439

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