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Using viral vectors to generate killer cells for immunotherapy against cancer and pathogens


Project Description

The ‘GW4 BioMed MRC DTP’ is awarding up to 18 studentships with an October 2020 start date, aligned with the themes of Infection, Immunity and Repair; Neuroscience and Mental Health; and Population Health. The DTP also places a strong emphasis on cross-cutting skills priorities (quantitative skills, interdisciplinary skills and in vivo skills), and may advertise projects outside these themes. The DTP welcomes students from non-medical backgrounds and can fund additional training to assist discipline conversion. Most studentships will be 3.5 years full time or up to 7 years part-time, and can be longer where additional training is undertaken.

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

Natural Killer (NK) and CD8+ cytotoxic T-cells are immune cells known to kill cancerous and virus-infected cells and are being used to treat forms of these diseases. This study aims to generate new understanding and reagents that will enable the expansion of highly functional NK and CD8+ T-cells for immunotherapy. We will achieve this by studying the capacity of genes encoded by human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) to expand these cell types; HCMV is unique in that it infects for life and drives the largest in vivo expansions of NK and CD8+ T-cells known to man. Despite the pathogenic nature of HCMV, redirection of CMV-induced immune responses have cured or prevented infection of the animal equivalents of HIV and tuberculosis respectively [1,2], thus attenuated forms of HCMV are being investigated as novel vaccine vectors in humans. Our well-funded laboratories (~£2million of active grants) have developed unique reagents and state-of-the-art proteomic, virological, immunological and molecular biological techniques to study HCMV gene function and its impact on NK and CD8+ T-cells [3-5]. We will use these cutting-edge approaches and samples from healthy individuals and cancer patients to define how NK and CD8+ T-cells respond to this virus. This will aid in our understanding of how to generate immune cells to protect at-risk individuals from HCMV, and also inform the development of safe and effective HCMV-based vaccine vectors that may be directed to target a broad range of cancers and pathogens.

REFERENCES: 1. Hansen SG et al. (2013) Nature, 502:100-4; 2. Hansen SG et al. (2018) Nat Med, 24:130-43; 3. Patel M et al. (2018) Frontiers Immunol, 9:02214; 4. Wang EC et al. (2018) PNAS, 115:4998-5003; 5. Weekes MP et al. (2014) Cell, 157:1460-72.

Further Informationcan be found here:
https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/people/view/78933-wang-eddie
http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/research/explore/research-units/viral-immunology-research-group

ELIGIBILITY

The DTP welcomes students from both biomedical and non-biomedical backgrounds (especially in areas of computing, mathematics and the physical sciences) and can fund additional training, including Masters, to assist discipline conversion. Applicants for a studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK in an appropriate degree subject. Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will only be considered if they also have a Master’s degree or have significant relevant non-academic experience.

HOW TO APPLY

You will need to complete both an application to the GW4 BioMed MRC DTP for an ‘offer of funding’ and to Cardiff University for an ‘offer to study’

1) Applying for an ‘offer of funding’
Please complete the online application form https://cardiff.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/gw4-biomed-mrc-doctoral-training-partnership-student-appl by 5pm, 25 November 2019.
The Research Theme Panels will complete the shortlisting and inform applicants by 19 December 2019.

If you are shortlisted you will need to;

• contact your chosen supervisor(s) to discuss your application between 3 and 15 January 2020
• submit two references and a copy of your academic transcript(s) by 17 January 2020
• attend an interview in Cardiff on 21 or 22 January 2020

Further details will be included in the shortlisting letter.
More information on the application process may be found here: http://www.gw4biomed.ac.uk/doctoral-students/

2) Applying for an ‘offer to study’

Applicants should submit an application for postgraduate study via the Cardiff University Online Application Service. http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/research/programmes/programme/medicine

Applicants should select Doctor of Philosophy Medicine, with a start date of October 2020.
In the research proposal section of your application, please specify the project title and supervisors of this project and copy the project description in the text box provided. In the funding section, please select "I will be applying for a scholarship / grant" and specify that you are applying for advertised funding from GW4 BioMed MRC DTP.
If are applying for more than one Cardiff University project please note this in the research proposal section.

Funding Notes

This studentship is funded through GW4 BioMed MRC Doctoral Training Partnership. It consists of full UK/EU tuition fees, as well as a Doctoral Stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum (£15,009 p.a. for 2019/20, updated yearly).
Additional research and training funding is available over the course of the programme. This will covers costs such as courses, conferences and travel, and research consumables. Additional competitive funds are available for high-cost or exceptional training.
The research projects listed are in competition with the 87 others - only 18 projects will be taken up as they will be awarded to the best applicants.

References

UK Research Council eligibility conditions apply (Full awards (fees plus maintenance stipend) are open to UK Nationals and EU students who can satisfy UK residency requirements. To be eligible for the full award, EU Nationals must have been in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the course for which they are seeking funding, including for the purposes of full-time education. EU Nationals who do not meet the above residency requirement are eligible for a fees only award, provided that they have been ordinarily resident in the EU for at least 3 years prior to the start of their proposed programme of study.)

For DTP enquiries please contact the DTP Manager, Erica Lewis at [email protected]
For enquiries about your University application, please contact the Postgraduate Administrator [email protected]

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