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HIC-Vac award seven teams funding for human infection studies research

Seven research teams are each receiving pump-priming funding of between £25-75,000 to carry out research relevant to human infection studies, with the ultimate goal of better understanding diseases, how they spread and developing ways to prevent or treat them.

Human infection studies involve people volunteering to take part in research that purposefully exposes them to a disease-causing microbe (including a wide range of bacteria, viruses, and parasites) in a carefully managed and safe way. Doctors and scientists can then study how the infection takes hold, the early immune response, and test new vaccines and treatments.

The HIC-Vac network has been given around £3 million – with the MRC as the main contributor – to support human infection studies until 2021. The projects are focused on diseases that cause a large health burden in low and middle income countries. The funded teams have domestic and international reach.

The newly-funded projects include an investigation into the bacteria that cause whooping cough and how two different vaccines protect children from the disease, a search for lab strains of a virus called RSV that more closely reflect natural circulating viral strains in Kenya, research into typhoid fever, and understanding how children develop tolerance to malaria.

Professor Peter Openshaw, Director of HIC-Vac and Professor of Experimental Medicine at Imperial College London, said: “These research projects will help tackle some of the world’s most high-impact pathogens. By funding a range of international collaborative projects, we will help our investigators to maximise information gained from samples collected during human challenge studies and compare them with natural infections. This will maximise their scientific benefit and potentially help with vaccine development. We are especially pleased to be giving support to young investigators and those from developing nations.”

Dr Martin Broadstock, Programme Manager for Immunology at the MRC, said: “Human infection studies are fundamental tool for understanding disease because they provide an insight into the immune response to infections and the elements of vaccines factors that protect people. Our hope is these pilot projects underpin new applications to funders, eventually leading to new and improved ways to combat infections.”

The 7 funded projects, each receiving £25-75,000 are:

  • Impact of Bordetella pertussis colonisation on the upper respiratory tract microbiome - Dr David Cleary, University of Southampton
  • Investigating the Host Senescence Responses triggered by the Typhoid Toxin during Acute Enteric Fever - Dr Daniel Humphreys, University of Sheffield
  • Comparing pertussis vaccine-induced mucosal immunity in Gambian infants with mucosal immune responses in the pertussis human challenge model as a tool to enhance understanding of protective immunity to pertussis - Professor Beate Kampmann, The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • Exploring mechanisms of immune tolerance & clinical immunity in human malaria at single cell resolution - Dr Angela Minassian, University of Oxford
  • Typhoid vaccine-induced antibody glycosylation as a correlate of protection - Dr Lisa Stockdale, University of Oxford
  • New RSV human challenge strains - Dr John Tregoning, Imperial College London
  • Characterisation of human nasal epithelial challenge using live attenuated strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae as a novel vaccine - Dr Caroline Weight, University College London

You can read more about the individual projects here

The HIC-Vac network is funded by the GCRF Networks in Vaccines Research and Development (co-funded by the MRC and BBSRC), and is part of the EDCTP2 programme supported by the European Union. The HIC-Vac network is directed by Professor Peter Openshaw led from Imperial College London, with the Deputy Director, Professor Andrew Pollard, based at the University of Oxford.

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