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Animal Free Research UK PhD Studentship in Virology/Immunology

Developing a new model of the human air-blood barrier to study immune cell translocation and to test new therapies against viral lung infection

A 3-year PhD Studentship is funded by Animal Free Research UK and is available within the Respiratory, Critical Care and Anaesthesia Section, UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health under the supervision of Dr Claire Smith. It will benefit from close collaboration with industry and researchers at Imperial College London.

The purpose of the proposed investigation

RSV bronchiolitis is a distressing, potentially life-threatening lung infection that affects over 33 million babies and infants worldwide every year. It is caused by highly contagious virus known as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). For most children, the illness is relatively mild, but almost 10% of cases, mostly premature babies and those under six months of age, will develop pneumonia and can end up spending long periods in intensive care on mechanical ventilators.

Despite these substantial health impacts, there is no licensed RSV vaccine or effective anti-viral treatment available. Currently, scientists rely heavily on animal models for the early assessment of new therapies to target lung infections. The most widely used to study RSV bronchiolitis are the rat and mouse, but these models do not accurately replicate the virus and infected animals exhibit little or no symptoms of disease. During this PhD studentship, we will develop a new 3D model of the infant lung that we will show accurately reproduces conditions during RSV bronchiolitis, including an immunological response. The result of our experiments, where we test new RSV drugs in our model, will not only support the replacement of animals for human anti-viral testing, but also will further our understanding of this condition in this important area of drug discovery.

The project would be suitable for a student with a BSc in Immunology, Virology or similar discipline.  Applicants should be ordinarily resident in the UK or EU.  Applicants should have, or expect to receive, a first class honours or an upper second class Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree (or equivalent work experience) in a relevant discipline or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard. Knowledge and experience of working with mammalian cell culture is desirable. Knowledge of basic Microbiology and Immunology techniques is beneficial.  The student will receive a stipend of £17, 009 per annum as well as the cost of tuition fees at the UK/EU rate.

To apply, please send a current CV including the contact details of two professional referees as well as a cover letter to Elena Paci (e.paci@ucl.ac.uk). Enquiries regarding the post can be made to Dr Claire Smith (c.m.smith@ucl.ac.uk).

Deadline for receipt of applications: 30 June 2020