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Mini-Lung cultures to study how human and bovine respiratory syncytial virus modulate immune responses (Ref FHMS - DTP - 01 BIO)


   Faculty of Health & Medical Sciences

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  Dr Lindsay Broadbent, Dr Dalan Bailey  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Human respiratory syncytial virus (hRSV) is responsible for over 30 million hospitalisations and 100,000 deaths worldwide each year. The closely related bovine RSV (bRSV) is the primary cause of respiratory disease in calves, resulting in losses of over £50 million each year Despite their global importance, our understanding of bovine and human RSV-disease and immunopathogenesis is incomplete and there is an urgent need for more correlative research on these viruses in physiologically relevant models, which will be the main focus of this project based in the Bailey and Broadbent groups. Dr Bailey’s group at The Pirbright Institute have extensive experience with both human and bovine RSV. They recently identified a process through which RSV sequesters NF-kB to viral inclusion bodies (IBs) during infection of continuous cell lines (PMID: 32878896). This project aims to uncover the impact of the sequestration during viral infection in a physiologically relevant model. Dr Broadbent has significant prior experience with the human well-differentiated primary airway epithelial cells (WD-PAECs) model, which consists of ciliated epithelium, mucus-producing goblet cells and basal cells in a pseudostratified arrangement, recapitulating the morphology and physiology of the airway to study virus-host interactions (PMID: 35436306; PMID: 35215919; PMID: 32075873). Development of a differentiated primary bovine epithelial cell model will allow us to confirm if this process is a common immune evasion strategy shared by all orthopneumoviruses. This research will merge cross-cutting correlative virology to address the following objectives: 

PhD objectives: 

  1. Establish differentiated primary bovine and human airway epithelial cell models. 
  2. Confirmation of NF-KB recruitment to IBs in primary airway epithelial cell cultures during RSV infection and elucidating the impact on innate signalling cascades and cellular immune responses.  
  3. Investigate wider immune antagonism by RSV IBs in physiologically relevant models. 
  4. Establish primary cell coculture systems to investigate pulmonary cell crosstalk and the impact on innate immune responses.  

This is a collaborative project between The University of Surrey and The Pirbright Institute. The successful candidate will work with research groups across both sites and benefit from a supervisory team with extensive experience in the use of primary airway cell cultures to study virus-host interactions and RNA virus molecular biology. 

The University of Surrey and collaborative partners The Pirbright Institute will provide a vibrant research environment with access to state-of-the-art facilities. The successful candidate will be supported with mentorship, career guidance and employability support. 

The principal supervisors are Dr Lindsay Broadbent (Surrey [Email Address Removed]) and Dr Dalan Bailey (Pirbright [Email Address Removed]).  

More information on the School of Biosciences and Medicine and The Pirbright Institute.

Entry requirements

Open to UK students with the project starting in October 2023. 

You will need to meet the minimum entry requirements for our PhD programme https://www.surrey.ac.uk/postgraduate/biosciences-and-medicine-phd#entry.

How to apply

Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the relevant principal supervisor(s) to discuss the project(s) before submitting their application.

Applications should be submitted via the https://www.surrey.ac.uk/postgraduate/biosciences-and-medicine-phd programme page (N.B. Please select the October 2023 start date when applying).

You may opt to apply for a single project or for 2 of these Pathogens and Host Defences Doctoral Training Partnership studentship projects

When completing your application, in place of a research proposal, please provide a brief motivational document (1 page maximum) which specifies:

  • the reference numbers(s) for the project or two projects you are applying for, 
  • the project title(s) and principal supervisor name(s) 
  • if apply for two projects, please also indicate your order of preference for the projects
  • an explanation of your motivations for wanting to study for a PhD 
  • an explanation of your reasons for selecting the project(s) you have chosen

Additionally, to complete a full application, you MUST also email a copy of your CV and 1-page motivational document directly to the relevant project principal supervisor of each project you apply for. Due to short turnaround times for applicant shortlisting, failure to do this may mean that your application is not considered.

Please note that online interviews for shortlisted applicants are expected to take place during the week commencing 30th January.

Project ref number FHMS-DTP-01 BIO


Funding Notes

Funding is for 3.5 years and includes UKRI-aligned stipend (£17,668 pa for 2022-23), approved University of Surrey fees and a research budget. This studentship is funded jointly by the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Surrey and The Pirbright Institute.
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