Tag Archive: PhD

  1. Students in Focus – where are they now?

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    We revisit some of the early career researchers from our past Students in Focus to see where they are now and how their EAVI2020 experiences have helped them along the way.

    We continue to be very proud and celebrate the successes of the early career researchers who took part in our Continuing Education & Training in HIV vaccine development programme. Over the past year, our EAVI2020 Students in Focus series has shone a spotlight on the students to hear from them about their experience in the programme. Here, we catch up with Nathifa and Alessandra.

    Nathifa Moyo

    Read Nathifa’s original feature

    Profile photo of Nathifa Moyo

    What work did you do as part of EAVI? and what are you up to now?

    I was based at The Jenner Institute, University of Oxford for 5 years as a postdoctoral researcher in the EAVI consortium. There, I was involved in the development of a T-cell vaccine for HIV-1 using the novel T-cell based immunogens, tHIVconsvX. Newly emerging technologies were combined to maximize the potential for inducing effective and durable T-cell responses in pre-clinical and clinical models. In addition, multiple vectors for antigen delivery, such as simian (chimpanzee) adenovirus (ChAdOx1), poxvirus-modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA) and new technologies like messenger RNA (mRNA), were assessed to determine if these systems offer opportunities to enhance cellular immune responses.

    I have since moved to biotech and joined the Immunology research team at Enara Bio, where my current focus is based on the development of novel T-cell based immunotherapies for cancer.

    What did you find most valuable about being part of the EAVI2020 training and development programme?

    The training and development programme provided opportunities to network and learn from other academic, industry and public health partners. It provided tremendous insight and knowledge into the process of vaccine development from bench construction to pre-clinical animal models and finally to the clinics.

    Any recent highlights to share?

    I was presented with the 2021 HIVR4P Mathieson New Investigator Award in HIV Research. This was awarded for my research and published work in Moyo et al., 2020: Tetravalent immunogen assembled from conserved regions of HIV-1 and delivered as mRNA demonstrates potent preclinical T cell immunogenicity and breath. In 2018, I was awarded with the Human Vaccine Trail Network (HVTN) Translational HIV Vaccine Early-Stage Investigator Award.

     

    Alessandra Gallinaro

    Read Alessandra’s original feature

    profile photo of Alessandra Gallinaro

    What work did you do as part of EAVI and what are you up to now?

    I have been part of the EAVI 2020 consortium since I was a PhD student. I worked on my PhD thesis on developing an IDLV (Integrase Defective Lentiviral Vector) based HIV vaccine using EAVI rationally designed HTI and UFO antigens. At present, as a post-doc, I am still working on improving and implementing IDLV as a vaccine platform for HIV and the novel SARS 2 coronavirus.

    What did you value most about being part of the EAVI2020 training and development programme?

    During the EAVI2020 training and development programme, I greatly appreciated the opportunity to share knowledge, expertise and data with other students and with PIs by acquiring very useful contacts and collaborations for my project. Also, writing abstracts, creating posters and presenting my work was a great opportunity to improve my skills.

    Any new publications to share with us?
    Gallinaro A, Borghi M, Pirillo MF, et al. Development and Preclinical Evaluation of an Integrase Defective Lentiviral Vector Vaccine Expressing the HIVACAT T Cell Immunogen in Mice. Mol Ther Methods Clin Dev. 2020 DOI: 10.1016/j.omtm.2020.01.013
    Gallinaro A, Pirillo MF, Aldon Y, et al. Persistent Immunogenicity of Integrase Defective Lentiviral Vectors delivering membrane tethered Native-Like HIV-1 Envelope Trimers (pre-print). Submitted to NPJ vaccines.

  2. EAVI2020 Students in Focus: Narcís Saubi from Vall d’Hebron Research Institute (VHIR), Spain

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    Profile of Narcis Saubi

    Hello everybody. I’m Narcís Saubi. I’m a chemist, and proud of it.  

    Where I started 

    I studied chemistry in Girona and specialized in Biochemistry at Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona. I performed a Masters in Biochemistry, and a research dissertation on Alcohol Dehydrogenase in rat’s eyes. Apparently, that subject wasn’t good enough to get a PhD grant.  

    I left academia, and went to the veterinary vaccines industry (no, it’s not the dark side of science). I learnt a lot on viruses, vaccines, production methods, trials, challenges… It was real “from bench to farm-side” research. But after 13 years dealing with chickens, laying hens, pigs and cows, I was invited to leave. After an extensive mailing, the friend-of-a-friend option made the miracle: a friend of a friend, Dr Joan Joseph, was working on an HIV vaccine based on BCG, at the Hospital Clinic de Barcelona.  

    During that period, the EAVI2020 project started. It was exciting to be part of it, even before EAVI2020 had been awarded a grant. And during these EAVI2020 years, I’ve seen that my knowledge before on vaccines was so tiny! But that’s the goodness of this project: a nice bunch of researchers, sharing their knowledge (large or small) to get an HIV vaccine.  

    Where I am  

    I’ve had the opportunity to attend most of PhD Courses held by EAVI2020, and, in these courses, learn from the best about glycan shields, SOSIP trimers, transmitted/founder viruses, broadly neutralizing antibodies, animal trials, industrial production. All you ever wanted to know about HIV vaccines but were afraid to ask. Sorry, the last part of the sentence is not true.  

    In the EAVI2020 PhD Courses we’ve learnt to ask about and discuss any subject with our mentors and professors. I must mention that, thanks to these courses, we’ve met quite often with the other students and post-docs, and we have been able to build up an interesting network of collaborators and friends for future projects.  

    Where I’m going  

    It’s difficult to predict where the future will take me. I’d like to keep on working on the vaccine field, but where? I don’t know.  

    Outside the lab 

    When I’m not in the lab designing and developing vaccines, I’m at home developing one teenager boy and one pre-teenager girl. And when these two occupations exhaust my batteries, I lock myself in the kitchen. I love cooking. New recipes, new flavours, new influences. I’m not always successful. But it’s relaxing and rewarding when your family and friends enjoy it. 

    To be part of the EAVI2020 is something I’ll always be proud of.  

  3. EAVI2020’s final newsletter of 2020 – Looking back and looking forward

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    EAVI2020 Newsletter December 2020 (.pdf opens in a new window)

    2020 has been a bumpy ride (to say the least) for everyone, including EAVI2020. Clinical trials had to come to a standstill due to lockdown restrictions and as a result, EAVI2020 received a no-cost extension from its funding body, The European Commission to make up lost time. Yet, the EAVI2020 consortium still have worked tirelessly, if not more so this year, to continue to develop and evaluate EAVI2020 vaccine candidates. This issue exemplifies the continued work of the EAVI2020 consortium and while it only covers the last three months, it is a testimony that even during a global pandemic, the EAVI2020 consortium don’t stop. In this issue:

    • Forward from Prof Robin Shattock
    • COVID-19 and HIV vaccine R&D. Can one help the other?
    • Five years of EAVI2020 – Annual Meeting 2020
    • Prof Robin Shattock presents to European Parliament
    • The 10th PhD Training Course – The first online
    • Students in Focus: Alessandra Gallinaro & Dominik Dam
    • Publications with EAVI2020 research
    • EAVI2020 out and about (online)
    • Upcoming HIV/AIDS research events
  4. EAVI2020 Students in Focus: Alessandra Gallinaro from the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS) in Italy.

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    profile photo of Alessandra Gallinaro

    My name is Alessandra Gallinaro and I am a Postdoc Researcher at the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS) in Rome, Italy.

    The road to my PhD

    Whilst studying Medical Biotechnology at “La Sapienza” University in Rome I was captivated by virology and immunology. I have been involved in the HIV field since obtaining my Bachelor’s Degree, during which I worked alongside clinicians studying drug resistance in patients being treated with HAART. After a fellowship at the Italian National AIDS Centre, in 2014 I transferred to Dr. Andrea Cara’s lab (ISS) where I am still located.

    Last year, I achieved my PhD in Experimental Medicine, in collaboration with the University “La Sapienza” in Rome. My PhD project focused on the development of an HIV-vaccine using Integrase Defective Lentiviral Vectors (IDLVs) as a delivery platform. As immunogens, we selected two of the EAVI2020 antigens to induce cellular immune response and IDLVs expressing UFOs antigens to elicit broadly neutralising antibodies (bNAbs).

    Being part of EAVI2020’s Training Programme

    In the last four years, I have been part of EAVI2020’s Education and Training programme. I attended a majority of the courses and found them very beneficial in broadening my knowledge and understanding regarding various aspects of the research in order to develop an effective vaccine against HIV: B- and T-cell immunity, rational design of vaccine candidates, use of different vaccine delivery systems, animal models.

    We were given the chance to visit the animal facilities in Paris and I thoroughly enjoyed the wet workshop in Madrid where I gained knowledge of how to characterise neutralising antibodies. It was also very fascinating to understand how industrial production of protein vaccines is made with GMP procedures at the Polymun Scientific in Vienna.

    Thanks to EAVI2020 training courses and annual meetings, I had the possibility to write abstracts, create scientific posters, and present my project’s progression. I have been given the great opportunity to improve my skills, both orally and in written communication and to share data and ideas amongst other students and PIs.

    EAVI2020 annual meetings were ideal in acquiring contacts and collaborations with the EAVI partners. Furthermore, interaction and an exchange of views with some of the most important people within the field of HIV research was very invigorating. I learned the importance of a scientific community, in which everyone collaborates making available its own expertise and resources in order to reach the same goal.

    Looking forward

    In my foreseeable future, I will continue to work within Andrea Cara’s team, striving to implement IDLV platform for UFOs antigens to further increase its immunogenicity.

    Outside the lab

    When out of my workplace, I like spending time with my family and friends and I enjoy a relaxing stroll along the promenade. I love travelling and I’m also a fan of detective series and mystery books.

     

  5. EAVI2020 Students in Focus: Dominik Damm (Department of Virology, Friedrich-Alexander-University (FAU), Erlangen, Germany)

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    Time to meet: Dominik Damm

    Where I started

    I wished to work in the field of HIV vaccine research since I was 13 years old. When I started my study of biology at the University of Regensburg, I tried to get into all immunology- and virology-related classes and seminars available and managed to do both my Bachelor and Master thesis on HIV-related topics. Finally, Prof. Klaus Überla gave me a PhD position in his group at the Department of Virology, which is part of the University Hospital in Erlangen, Germany. The group develops and tests nanoparticles as HIV vaccine candidates that present trimers of the HIV envelope protein (Env) on the surface and encapsulate heterologous T helper epitopes inside (T helper nanoparticles). We hope to recruit pre-existing T helper cells from childhood vaccinations in the vaccines that give intrastructural help to the Env-specific B cells, thereby modulating and improving the HIV humoral immune response. So, basically, I am currently doing what I always wanted to do and this gives me motivation every day I go to work.

    photo of Dominik Damm

    Dominik is in his 6th year of study and his research focusses on T helper nanoparticles as HIV vaccine candidates

    Luckily, the EAVI2020 program kicked off in the same year my PhD position started, so I got to experience this great consortium from the very beginning to now. Over the years I attended several PhD training courses and presented my research progress at the annual meetings.

    Where I am

    In principle, the training courses were reflections of the different EAVI2020 work packages with each course laying the focus on another aspect of the wide range of HIV vaccine research. Thus, we covered everything from antigen design, B and T cell vaccines as well as therapeutic approaches to animal models and ethical guidelines, industrial large-scale GMP production, etc. The courses were accompanied by workshops about grant writing and good scientific writing, which now helps me a lot during the final phase of my PhD.

    A wonderful fact of the EAVI2020 meetings was the ability to discuss hurdles, problems and prospects of your own research with other PhD students or leading HIV researchers without the bitter taste of rivalry, because everyone acts in concert and there is huge respect towards each other’s work. Also, the PIs always seemed to set great store on encountering PhD students at eye level in discussions or during presentations, which improved their self-esteem as young researchers.

    Since I did not have the chance to travel a lot as a child or teenager, it was refreshing to be among so many people from different countries and to actually visit these countries for the first time for meetings and training courses. Thus, the EAVI2020 program also enriched my cultural knowledge in many ways. My personal favourite was a one-week visit in Marit van Gils’ and Rogier Sanders’ labs (Academic Medical Center (AMC), The Netherlands) as part of the EAVI2020 student exchange program. Being there, I learned new lab techniques, had plenty of discussions with all the lab members that helped to modify my own project, and I could watch the famous SOSIP trimer production site.

    Where I am going

    As a student, I was always admiring the big international or US-based HIV vaccine consortia such as IAVI or CHAVD, where many scientists are working synergistically together, thereby producing and publishing high-impact research progress very efficiently and in a short amount of time. Now having the exact same thing among European and Australian HIV research groups is a fantastic opportunity and highly promotes competitive, creative strategies to end the HIV pandemic. I dearly hope that the EU will continue with similar or follow-up programs beyond Horizon2020.

    Currently, I perform some last experiments for my PhD project and write the resulting publications. After my PhD, I will try to receive a grant or fellowship for a Postdoc position and hopefully be able to kick off some kind of junior research group.

    Outside the lab

    Outside the lab, I like to clear my mind by going for a walk, while listening to music and catching some Pokémon. I also love to play the guitar and go to concerts, but mainly I spend quality time with my two little children.

  6. EAVI2020 9th PhD training course to go ahead

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    Postponed due to the global pandemic, ‘HIV glycoprotein engineering for vaccines’ will be virtual course as organised by EAVI2020 partners, Amsterdam University Medical Centre (AMC).

    After a few months delay due to COVID-19, EAVI2020 are pleased to announce that the 9th iteration of the PhD training course will be going ahead on 18th November 2020. EAVI2020 partners, Amsterdam University Medical Centre (AMC) who had originally organised for the student to attend in-person in April of this year, have adapted the program to be a virtual course.

    Titled HIV glycoprotein engineering for vaccines, the programme’s presenters include keynote speaker, Dr Hans Langedijk, Research Director at Janssen Research & Development and AMC postdocs, Kwinten Sliepen, Tom Caniels and Yoann Aldon. The day will focus on envelope protein engineering including a comparative analysis on the pathogenicity of HIV and SARS-CoV-2.

    It has been a challenging time for the organising committee to continue EAVI2020’s research programme during the global pandemic. However, Dr Rogier Sanders, Dr Marit Gils, Ronald Derking, Sliepen Kwinten, the Amsterdam team and other collaborators were committed to making it work and ensuring the students continue to get the most out of EAVI2020’s Continuing Education & Training in HIV vaccine development programme.

    Supporting the next generation of scientists

    Lead by Dr Joan Joseph (VHIR) and Prof Britta Warhen (KI), employment and training of young scientists in Europe and in association with European research groups are important aspects of EAVI2020. The consortium are committed to providing scientific fellowships and exchange to maximise training of the next generation of young scientists. A training program in vaccine development improves and disseminate advanced research skills developed within the project which synchronously, enables young scientists to contribute to the dissemination of knowledge in the field of vaccine research and development in their own institutions.

    To date, there have been 8 EAVI2020 PhD training courses hosted by EAVI2020’s various partners across Europe. The courses have focussed on clinical and laboratory-based training and have befitted Master students, PhD students, and postdoctoral fellows from EAVI2020’s partner institutions. For a closer look at one of the PhD training courses, read about the 7th course titled From Lab to Clinic

  7. EAVI2020 Students in Focus: Ehsan Suleiman (Polymun Scientific, Austria)

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    Time to meet: Ehsan Suleiman

    I am an employee of Polymun Scientific and a PhD student of Biomolecular Technology of Proteins (BioToP) at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, Austria. I have been involved in the development of readily scalable approaches for the manufacturing of liposomes-based vaccines against HIV-1 for almost five years now. In a collaborative effort with scientists at the Institute of Clinical and Molecular Virology at the Universitätsklinikum Erlangen we have been able to advance a novel vaccine platform from the early stage of conceptualization to first in vivo trials.

    profile photo of Ehsan Suleiman

    Ehsan Suleiman is in his 5th year PhD focussing on Liposome-based HIV-1 vaccines.

    Being part of the European AIDS Vaccine Initiative 2020 and working on a project at the interface of academia and industry has been a unique and rewarding experience. Working in this setting has placed me between the poles of basic research, clinical research and the biopharmaceutical industry. This has given me the opportunity to experience vaccine development from these different perspectives and to develop my roles as communicator and mediator. The last years have made me recognize the complexity of HIV/AIDS and have made me internalize the fact that ending this devastating pandemic is not merely a scientific or technical challenge. It is a socio-economic, social, political and logistical challenge that requires the active inclusion/participation of affected people and the establishment of cross-functional collaborations for it to be overcome. It is a challenge that will require agents like scientists, technologists, entrepreneurs, policy and decisionmakers to critically reflect on their privileges, their approaches and their responsibility to create tangible impact in order to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

    I am currently in my final year and in the process of writing up my doctoral thesis. When I am not in the lab or at the office I love to cook, politicise, socialise, work out or share quality time with my dearest and nearest. So far, I have not decided on what exactly to do next in my career. What I know for sure is that I would love to share all the lessons I have learned as a young researcher in the last years and that I would like to continue to be part of a bold, impact-generating, international consortium such as the European AIDS Vaccine Initiative 2020.

  8. EAVI2020 Students in Focus: Isabella Huettner (King’s College London, UK)

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    Time to meet: Isabella Huettner

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    Isabella Huettner is a PhD student at King’s College London, UK.

    During the 4 years of my PhD with Dr Katie Doores at King’s College London (UK), I had the opportunity to attend yearly consortium meetings and several PhD training courses. We are interested in studying the role of sugars as priming immunogens for an HIV-1 vaccine. The EAVI2020 consortium and training courses have been an integral part of my PhD journey. For me, the chance to present and discuss my research and learn about the research projects of the other incredible partners in the consortium was very inspiring. The whole consortium is very collaborative, supportive and accommodating of students. The student training courses allowed me to get to know many intelligent and talented post-docs and fellow PhD students and learn about different aspects of vaccination and considerations in the development and use of immunogens and adjuvants. I also valued the opportunity to travel around Europe and get a glimpse behind the scenes in world-leading research institutions. I am very grateful for the chance to be an EU-funded PhD student and to be part of this consortium. I hope there will be many more EU-funded consortiums like this, since the scientific contribution and progress of this consortium is invaluable. I recently submitted my PhD thesis and I will have my viva soon. I will continue working in Katie’s lab and finish the EAVI2020 project, while expanding my focus to SARS-CoV2 related research topics. If I am not in the lab, I like to dance ballet, contemporary or jazz and enjoy travelling.

  9. EAVI2020 Students in Focus: Philipp Mundsperger (Polymun Scientific, Austria)

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    Let’s meet Philipp Mundsperger.

    photo of Phillipp Mundsperger

    PhD student at Polymun Scientific and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, Austria

    Hi! My name is Philipp and I am a PhD student at Polymun Scientific and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, Austria. Within the scope of the EAVI2020 framework, I am found on the industry side of the programme where my colleagues and I have worked on the manufacturing of soluble variants of the HIV-virus envelope glycoprotein (HIV-1 Env) as prospective vaccine antigens. Over the last few years, I have had the opportunity to get to know lots of aspects of vaccine manufacturing, such as the generation of cell lines for the production of vaccine antigens, the production in small and large scale, as well as new methods to ensure quality and safety of the final protein product. Looking back I have to say it was challenging to dig into a very specialised topic in a short amount of time, but that has been the time when I’ve learned the most – professionally and personally. Besides the daily life in the lab, the EAVI2020 PhD training program provided me with the opportunity to attend several training courses and annual consortium meetings, held and organised by partnering institutions.  Stimulating discussions among fellow students and PIs about new ideas or difficulties have made those courses and meetings a great source of motivation to put my own work in the context of the bigger picture of EAVI2020. After graduating I plan to find a job in industry, since I love to work at the interface between applied science and application. Especially now, that I am approaching the final phase of my PhD I am feeling grateful that I have had the chance to get involved with the EAVI2020 community – a truly amazing and inspiring group of people, both in terms of scientific excellence and collaborating efforts.

  10. EAVI2020 Students in Focus: Athina Kilpeläinen (Karolinska Institutet, Sweden)

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    Throughout the past four years, the students of EAVI2020 have worked tirelessly in The Continuing Education & Training in HIV vaccine development programme. This is a work package of the EAVI2020 project dedicated to the employment and training of young scientists in Europe. It comprises of scientific fellowships, student exchange, wet workshops, and a PhD Programme to maximise the training of the next generation of young scientists in the field of vaccine development. It is now time we shine a positive spotlight on the students to hear from them about their experience in the programme, lessons learned and what they hope to achieve moving beyond EAVI2020s. ‘EAVI2020 Students in Focus’ will be a regular news feature so be sure to subscribe to the EAVI2020 newsletter to get the latest updates.  In this issue, we feature Yoann Aldon and Athina Kilpelïnen.

    Athina Kilpeläinen

    During the EAVI2020 training program, I was given the chance to present my work orally and discuss my findings and conclusions with fellow students. This provided me with the opportunity to improve my presentation skills as well as receive valuable scientific input and advice. During the training program, I have had the chance to partake in practical courses and learn new laboratory methods. These experiences have been highly fruitful and will be highly beneficial to my scientific career. This has been the most rewarding part, aside from the relationships I’ve been able to build thanks to the program. As an EAVI2020 PhD student, I was given the opportunity to move to Barcelona (Vall d’Hebron Research Institute (VHIR)) all the way from Stockholm (Karolinska Institutet). It has been a great experience overall, discovering a new culture, meeting new people and being welcomed into a new research laboratory. Furthermore, being a part of the consortium, I was able to expand my research network and build relationships with scientists at all stages in the field, aside from just PhD students. This will be a great benefit in the next stage of my scientific career as a postdoctoral researcher. I strongly recommend taking part in a PhD training course like the one arranged in the EAVI2020. My advice would be to not be afraid to ask questions or interact with fellow students.

    You can see Athina speak as a panellist in the EAVI2020 webinar titled, Developing an effective #HIV vaccine: what do we need and when will we get there?