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Forecasting the next panzootic foot-and-mouth disease lineage: informing virus fitness from in vitro studies and genomic data

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  • Full or part time
    Dr D King
    Dr D Horton
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

We seek a highly motivated student with the enthusiasm and drive to pursue an engaging question in the field of virus emergence and epidemiology. Foot and mouth disease virus (FMDV) causes a highly contagious disease of cloven hooved livestock with potentially devastating economic consequences. Whilst the different ‘serotypes’ of FMDV are highly variable, only a relatively small number of viral lineages successfully spread to have distributions covering multiple continents (attaining ‘panzootic’ status). This project aims to address the question of what drives a FMDV strain to become panzootic and supplant the existing strain(s). The ability to forecast whether a novel lineage is likely to become panzootic would profoundly improve our ability to prepare for and respond to outbreaks where multiple strains are circulating.

This project will take advantage of The Pirbright Institute’s unparalleled collection of FMD viruses and sequence data to derive genotypic signatures of panzootic FMDV strains. As part of the project you will generate complete genomes of multiple co-circulating panzootic and non-panzootic strains. You will then use a comparative approach to analyse the complete genomes to look for regions that correlate with panzootic potential. These genomic analyses will in turn be complemented by you undertaking phenotypic characterisation of the viruses using classical laboratory and molecular virology techniques in vitro. Different viruses will be assessed according to their behaviour in the face of varying evolutionary pressures, for example host species or different levels of pre-existing immunity, and then assessing how the results relate to the observations made in the bioinformatics analyses.

You will have a rare opportunity to develop skills and to undertake laboratory work with live FMD virus in the high containment facilities based at the Pirbright Institute. The successful candidate will receive training in bioinformatics as well as a complete suite of classical and molecular virological methods which will be used throughout the project. This project represents an opportunity to answer a fundamental question in virology with a directly applicable outcome whilst at the same time gaining cutting edge skills and experience. The successful candidate will have excellent organisational, written and oral communication skills and be willing and able to show initiative in undertaking the proposed project.

For informal discussions regarding the project please contact Dr Don King ([Email Address Removed]) or Dr Dan Horton ([Email Address Removed]).
TO APPLY: Full details of how to apply can be found by visiting our website - click Visit Website below.
For enquiries regarding the application process please email Admissions Enquiries - click Email Now below.

Funding Notes

This is a fully funded studentship open to science graduates (with or who anticipate obtaining at least 2.1 or equivalent in relevant biological subject in undergraduate degree, or a Masters degree - subject to university regulations). Open to UK students and eligible EU students who qualify for home-rated fees in line with Residential Guidelines for Research Council Studentships – Visit Website for eligibility criteria. Eligible students will receive a minimum annual stipend of £15,009; university registration fees will be paid. Students without English as first language must provide evidence of IELTS score of 7.0, no less than 6.5 in subsections.

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