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Production and assessment of antiviral prophylactic properties of natural biomolecules against avian influenza and Newcastle disease viruses affecting poultry production


Project Description

Poultry infected with avian influenza viruses and/or Newcastle disease viruses suffer severe morbidity and mortality which can gravely impact poultry production. Zoonotic transmission of avian influenza has also resulted in over 2,500 human infections and a case fatality rate of 45%. Effective control of these viruses in poultry is complex, with current interventions involving culling of infected and at-risk poultry and restrictions to poultry movement. The impact of disease is reduced through vaccination, however, available vaccines do not guarantee complete protection or sterile immunity. Furthermore, vaccination is not performed where the diseases are not endemic, including Europe and the USA, due to the inability to distinguish infected from vaccinated birds using serological analyses. Therefore there is critical need for new innovative disease control strategies.

This PhD project will evaluate the antiviral potential and molecular properties of naturally occurring biomolecules for use in a novel prophylactic treatment of farmed poultry against avian influenza and Newcastle disease. Our preliminary data shows the identified candidates are able to inhibit the haemagglutination ability of different virus strains of avian influenza and Newcastle disease. This project will take the preliminary findings forward and utilise a number of biochemical and biophysical techniques to purify and investigate these antiviral compounds. During the project, the student will have the opportunity to learn key methods of industrial preparation of antiviral compounds at our partnering industrial facility. The antiviral activities of the identified biomolecules will be evaluated using virology approaches including the use of cell culture, embryonated hens’ eggs and in vivo chicken infection models. The follow-on studies will analyse molecular properties of these naturally derived molecules and exploit molecular biology, biotechnology technologies to produce more stable antiviral therapeutics in vitro in cell culture systems.
Availability of these innovative, highly protective and cost-effective disease control strategies should reduce the impact of infectious diseases on farmed animals and offer substantial indirect economic, public health, environmental and social benefits to the UK as well as to global stakeholders.

Attributes of suitable applicants: This studentship is open to science graduates (with, or who anticipate obtaining, at least a 2.1 or equivalent, in a relevant biological subject in their undergraduate degree, or a Masters degree (subject to university regulations). Other first degrees, e.g. veterinary science, will be considered. You should be looking for a challenging, interdisciplinary research training environment and have an active interest in the control of infectious diseases.

Students without English as a first language must also provide evidence that they meet the English language requirement, e.g. with an IELTS score of 7.0 and no less than 6.5 in any of the subsections.

How to apply:
If you are interested in applying for a BBSRC iCASE studentship please contact the named supervisor, Munir Iqbal () for further information and to determine whether they would encourage you to apply. Applicants who wish to apply for a BBSRC iCASE studentship should apply directly to the Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP via

Funding Notes

This project is funded for four years by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council BBSRC. BBSRC eligibility criteria apply (View Website Annexe 1). EU nationals who do not meet BBSRC residence criteria are encouraged to contact the programme administrator to check their eligibility for BBSRC funding before submitting a formal application. Successful students will receive a stipend of no less than the standard RCUK stipend rate, currently set at £14,777 per year, which will usually be supplemented by the industrial partner.

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