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A postgraduate research opportunity at the University of Otago.


Close date
Sunday, 30 June 2019
Academic background
Sciences, Health Sciences
Host campus
Pathology and Molecular Medicine (Wellington)
Dr Ayesha Verrall


A talented student is sought for a funded doctoral project focused on identifying epigenetic changes induced by BCG vaccination that protect against Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection. This follows on from work by our group showing BCG innate immune responses to protect against M. tuberculosis infection. This phenomenon, termed “trained innate immunity” is associated with increased cytokine responses to a range of stimuli (not just TB) and altered epigenetic marks on immune cells.

A planned clinical trial in Indonesia will recruit health care students as they begin their clinical placement. Participants will be randomised BCG re-vaccination or placebo, and be followed up for signs of M. tuberculosis infection. You will analyse how vaccination alters epigenetic marks in peripheral blood mononuclear cells collected on study participants. You will correlate these changes with other measurements including cytokine responses and host genotype.

Your studies will advance understanding of how the world's most widely administered vaccine works, and suggest new pathways for developing improved vaccines. Our group, a collaboration between the University of Otago, Radboud University (Netherlands) and Universitas Padjadjaran, has a track record of conducting high quality laboratory work and successful clinical trials in Indonesia.

Expressions of interest are sought from candidates with a first class honours degree in genetics or immunology (or equivalent) and whose previous experience demonstrate independent problem solving and ability to work cross culturally. The ideal candidate will see this project as a platform for deeper mechanistic work in immune function or genetics that could include analysis on other samples collected from this cohort or other cohort.

You'll be supervised by Dr Verrall, an Infectious Diseases Physician and Senior Lecturer and Dr Thunders, a geneticist, both in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine, University of Otago, Wellington. Dr Verrall's PhD was on innate immunity in TB case contacts in Bandung. You'll work closely with our partners in collaborating institutions and will need to be present in Indonesia at times to assist with specimen collection. Appropriate co-supervision will be arranged to meet the successful candidate's needs. Tuition, stipend and project costs are already funded by the an NZ Health Research Council grant (Dr Verrall PI).


Ayesha Verrall
Tel +64 4 918 5936

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