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MRC Precision Medicine DTP: The effect of prior exposure on influenza vaccine effectiveness

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Wednesday, January 08, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Dr Richard Reeve
Prof Olwyn Byron
Dr Pablo Murcia
Prof David Bhella

Project summary:
Influenza viruses are notorious for the speed at which they evolve, with new mutants that differ in antigenic phenotype emerging constantly. This process, known as antigenic drift, drives regular updates to seasonal flu vaccines – an area which can benefit directly from modelling of the evolutionary process. In a process known as ‘original antigenic sin’ the human immune system preferentially mounts antibody responses that cross-react to previously circulating strains, as opposed to optimally targeting new viral strains. As a result, the immune system of different individuals may react differently to new influenza mutations according to their history of exposure. In particular their reaction is anticipated to vary according to the first influenza strains to which they were exposed.

Immunodominance refers to the hierarchy in importance of regions of the haemagglutinin protein at eliciting antibodies. Understanding the pattern of change in immunodominance through time can help us to predict how an individual may react to mutations in current epitopes based on knowledge of the strains to which they were likely exposed in childhood, and is critical to the design and optimal delivery of vaccines that provide immunity in all individuals, regardless of age and exposure history. The aims of this project are to 1) develop models of change in epitope immunodominance; 2) correlate immunodominance of childhood strains to prevalence of antigenic variants through time; 3) provide information on how differently aged individuals might be expected to react to mutations in emerging antigenic variants.

The studentship will be based in the award-winning Boyd Orr Centre for Population and Ecosystem Health – – and the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Heath and Comparative Medicine – , working closely with supervisors in the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research – (the home of the Scottish Centre for Macromolecular Imaging) and the School of Life Sciences – . Please get in touch with Richard Reeve – – if you have any questions about the project.

This MRC programme is joint between the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. You will be registered at the host institution of the primary supervisor detailed in your project selection.

All applications should be made via the University of Edinburgh, irrespective of project location. Please note that your application along with any supporting documents will be shared between both the University of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

For information on ‘How to Apply’ is detailed here:
Please note that all applications must be submitted via the University of Edinburgh:

Please note, you must apply to one of the projects and you must contact the primary supervisor prior to making your application. Additional information on the application process is available from the link above.

For more information about Precision Medicine visit:

Funding Notes

Start: September 2020

Qualifications criteria: Applicants applying for a MRC DTP in Precision Medicine studentship must have obtained, or will soon obtain, a first or upper-second class UK honours degree or equivalent non-UK qualification, in an appropriate science/technology area.

Residence criteria: The MRC DTP in Precision Medicine grant provides tuition fees and stipend of at least £15,009 (RCUK rate 2019/20) for UK and EU nationals that meet all required eligibility criteria.

Full eligibility details are available: View Website

Enquiries regarding programme:

Related Subjects

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