Grant awarded to Dr Caroline Weight

09 Sep 2019

Congratulations to MPRU postdoctoral research associate, Dr Caroline Weight, on being awarded the HIC-Vac pump-priming funding! The goal of the study is to characterize the nasal epithelial response to challenge by live attenuated Streptococcus pneumoniae as a novel vaccine candidate. The funding of £75,000 will support work over 3 months performed at University College London, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Queen Elizabeth hospital in Blantyre, Malawi.

Study summary:

Streptococcus pneumoniae infects the lower respiratory tract leading to the deaths of over 500,000 people each year. We do not fully understand how the bacteria is able to transition to cause invasive disease following colonisation in the nose. The first line of defence is the nasal epithelial cells, and interactions with the bacteria are pivotal to understanding the nature of this transition. The current vaccine is not effective against all strains of the bacteria, nor at preventing carriage of the bacteria. The Brown lab at UCL have generated mutant forms of the bacteria that are candidates for a novel protective vaccine against infection. In order to test the mutants in humans, we need to validate in the laboratory its decreased virulence status, for the safety of future vaccine use. 

The data generated from this proposal will come from the Experimental Human Pneumococcal Carriage trials conducted at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, from human nasopharyngeal cell lines using established protocols at UCL, and from natural carriage and EHPC trials conducted at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Blantyre, Malawi. Together, these studies will enhance our knowledge that the candidate vaccines are safe to use in humans and what biological outcomes should be expected. These human challenge data will also generate essential information for applications to progress to a clinical trial for the chosen vaccine candidate.