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Queen’s DTP: Pursuing schistosomiasis elimination through gene therapy and analytical modelling

School of Biological Sciences

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Dr P McVeigh , Dr G Gobert , Dr Paul Caplat No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Belfast United Kingdom Bioinformatics Data Analysis Epidemiology Genetics Immunology Molecular Biology Parasitology

About the Project

This project opportunity is offered as part of the Queen's Doctoral Training Programme - Multi-dimensional approaches to understanding microbe/host interactions in the context of disease, therapeutics and community resilience. For more information, please visit:

Schistosomiasis is a neglected tropical disease that affects 200 million people in 72 economically developing countries, leading to inhibited child development, reduced maternal health, and poverty. The UN Millennium Development Goals have stimulated global efforts to eliminate schistosomiasis within the next 5-10 years, although the success of this goal will require improved control and diagnostic methods. Schistosomiasis is transmitted by freshwater snails as vectors. This makes snail control a key focus for the elimination agenda, which is currently achieved primarily by the application of environmentally damaging chemical molluscicides.

Innovative “gene drive” methods have been developed for malaria vectoring mosquitoes, and have been used to drive malaria resistance genotypes into susceptible mosquito populations. Our hypothesis is that similar methods can be used to drive schistosome resistance into snail vectors, through the release of laboratory-bred transgenic snails into wild populations. This studentship will contribute to a growing team in the McVeigh lab focused on developing this technology for snail-focused schistosomiasis control. Specifically, the student will:

- Tailor CRISPR/Cas9 methods for driving transgenic parasite resistance genes into host snail populations.

- Perform laboratory experiments to quantify rates of transgenic gene inheritance within experimental populations.

- Use analytical modelling to understand the key ecological parameters for a successful release of transgenic snails into a wild environment, consistent with modification of the target population.

The successful student will benefit from high-quality training in state-of-the-art wet lab and computational methods at QUB, and will have the opportunity to interact with our project collaborators in the UK, USA and Tanzania.

Candidate requirements: 1st or 2.1 undergraduate degree in a biological sciences subject. If 2.1, candidate should also have an MSc Distinction in a biology-related subject, and/or demonstrate laboratory experience in a relevant area.

Start date: October 2021

Duration: 3.5 years

How to apply:

Applicants for this project must apply to the School of Biological Sciences PhD programme at Queen’s via

Funding Notes

There are a number of competition based studentships available, funded by the Department for the Economy (DfE). These opportunities are primarily available for UK applicants but there will be a small number of awards available for EU/international candidates.
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