EMVDA PhD Students

EVI's capacity strengthening efforts also include sponsorship of PhD students primarily from Developing Countries:

Anthony Ajua

Funded by the EVI supported European Malaria Vaccine Development Association (EMVDA) PhD programme

Based at: Eberhard-Karls Universität Tübingen (EKUT), Germany
First Supervisor: Dr. Benjamin Mordmüller, EKUT, Germany
Second Supervisor: Dr. Michael Theisen, Statens Serum Institut (SSI), Denmark

Development of humoral immune responses and immunological memory against malaria vaccine candidates in humans

The main focus of this project is to characterise the development of circulating antibody- and B-cell memory-responses against different eythrocytic stage malaria vaccine-candidates in humans.  This project is embedded in previous and current malaria vaccine candidate clinical trials in Tübingen and Lambaréné, Gabon.  The infrastructure also allows for synergistic interactions with other immunologically centred projects. Established and validated protocols are compared with newly developed methods.  All techniques are tested as surrogate marker for efficacy.  A spin-off of our work is a set of standard tools, including experimental procedures and software for analysing immunological data that will be provided to the scientific community under a general public license.

Born in Buea, Cameroon, Anthony studied Life Sciences at the University of Buea, obtaining  a Master of Science degree in Zoology in 2003, specialising in Medical Parasitology.

Related publication:
Malaria Journal 201211:367 DOI: 10.1186/1475-2875-11-36

Samuel Bosomprah

Funded by the EVI supported EMVDA PhD programme and the African Malaria Network Trust (AMANET), Tanzania

Based at: London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), UK
First Supervisor: Dr. Paul Milligan, LSHTM, UK
Second Supervisor: Dr. Daniel Dodoo, College of Health Sciences, University of Ghana, Ghana

Medical Statistics related to malaria vaccine studies

The PhD work is in three parts.  Firstly, analysis of cohort studies to evaluate the vaccine potential of malaria blood-stage candidate antigens (MSP1-Block 2 hybrid and AS202.11) designed to incorporate antigenic diversity.  The second part is to investigate aspects of the design of vaccine efficacy trials . The third part is to investigate the use of age-stratified cross-sectional data on malaria antibody prevalence to estimate changes in malaria transmission intensity.

After working in the Ministry of Health, Ghana, Samuel obtained a BSc in Statistics from the University of Ghana, Legon, and joined the LSHTM in 2005 obtaining a MSc in Medical Statistics in 2006.

Simone Claudia de Cassan

Funded by the EVI supported EMVDA PhD programme

Based at: The Jenner Institute, University of Oxford (UNOX), UK
First Supervisor: Professor Adrian Hill, UNOX, UK
Second Supervisor: Dr. Ed Remarque, Biomedical Primate Research Centre (BPRC), The Netherlands

Optimising immunogenicity of malaria vaccination regimes

The vaccine field generally accepts that the induction of high-titre antibodies is necessary to prevent the invasion of red blood cells, and therefore clinical disease, utilising vaccines targeting the blood-stage of malaria.  A comparative assessment of a panel of leading and accessible adjuvants is being conducted with respect to their ability to induce high and sustained antibody titres in a classical three-shot protein-in-adjuvant regime, compared to an adenoviral prime, protein-in-adjuvant boost regime.  The model antigen ovalbumin, as well as leading candidate malaria blood-stage antigens such as MSP-1, will be utilised.  Differences in the underlying immunogenicity of these two regimes and the adjuvants used will also be investigated to aid the more rationale design of antibody inducing vaccines.

Originally from Austria, Simone studied for a BA in Biological Sciences followed by an MSc in Integrated Immunology at the University of Oxford.

Related publications:
Mol Ther v.22(12); 2014 Dec PMC4250079
Immunology. 2014 Apr; 141(4): 628–644

Kelwalin Dhanasarnsombut

Funded by the EVI supported EMVDA PhD programme

Based at: University of Edinburgh (UEDIN), Scotland
First Supervisor: Dr. David Cavanagh, UEDIN, Scotland
Second Supervisor: Prof. Anthony Holder, National Institut for Medical Research (NIMR), UK

Development of vaccines against Plasmodium falciparum.

One aspect of the studies involves the design and validation of a promising vaccine candidate, the MSP-1 Block1/Block2 synthetic hybrid, including biochemical characterisation of the product, immunogenicity testing and in vitro parasite inhibition assays.  In addition, studies in the discovery of other P. falciparum proteins, which show potential as novel vaccination targets, is being undertaken, in particular antigens which belong to a specific group of proteins: the intrinsically unstructured proteins (IUPs). These proteins lack secondary and tertiary protein structure and are abundant in the proteome of P. falciparum.

After obtained BSc in Biology at Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, Kelwalin studied for MSc (by research) in Infectious diseases, specialising in malaria research, followed by working as a research assistant in the Institute of Infection and Immunology Research at the University of Edinburgh.

Micha Phill Grønholm Jepsen

Funded by the EVI supported European Malaria Vaccine Development Association (EMVDA) PhD programme

Based at: Copenhagen University, Denmark
First Supervisor: Dr. Michael Theisen, Statens Serum Institut (SSI), Copenhagen, Denamrk
Second Supervisor: Dr. Benjamin Mordmüller, Eberhard-Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany

Assessment of the immune responses to a malaria candidate vaccine in immunized volunteers and exposed populations.

The main objectives of the project are:

  • Development of assays for detection of malaria vaccine candidate specific antibodies in infants.
  • Comparison of the immune response to a vaccine candidate in lightly malaria exposed children and exposed adult to that of non-exposed adult volunteers.

Micha holds an MD from Copenhagen University from 2002 and has worked within the fields of infectious diseases and clinical microbiology.

Related publication:
The Journal of Infectious Diseases,  volume 208, issue 3

Boaz Owino Owuor

Funded by the EVI supported EMVDA PhD programme

Based at: Biomedical Primate Research Centre, Rijswijk (BPRC), The Netherlands
First Supervisor: Dr. Clemens Kocken, BPRC, The Netherlands
Second supervisor: Prof. Ogobara Doumbo, Malaria Research and Training Centre, Mali

Antibody-mediated cellular immunity to malaria in the context of vaccine development

Malaria vaccine trials in exposed populations have not been very successful or consistent in finding robust associations between the predicted immune responses and clinical protection.  The main objectives are to identify potential assays that may serve as alternative correlates of protection and to employ such surrogates to evaluate promising candidates in development for clinical trials in human and in non-human primates.

With a Masters Degree in Biochemistry from University of Nairobi, Boaz did research in severe malaria at Walter Reed, and is an assistant lecturer in the School of Public Health at Maseno University in Kenya.

Balam Saidou, MD

Funded by the EVI supported EMVDA PhD programme

Based at: University of Lausanne (CHUV), Switzerland
First Supervisor: Professor François Spertini, CHUV, Switzerland
Second Supervisor: Prof. Klavs Berzins, Stockholm University (SU), Sweden

Functional Analysis of Human Antibodies Against Plasmodium Merozoite Surface Protein (Msp2) and Epitopes Mapping

Since the full-length MSP2 contains a highly polymorphic region, attention is focussed on the allelic specific (D) and constant (C) regions of the two allelic families of MSP2. The objectives of this project are:

  • To map the relevant epitopes characterizing the D and C regions of two MSP2 families,
  • To evaluate biological activity of epitope-specific antibodies to inhibit plasmodium
  • growth in antibody-dependent cellular activity (ADCI).

Balam obtained his MD in General Medicine at the University of Bamako-Mali in 2007, where he continued doing research in malaria and lymphatic filariasis, and where is is now a research assistant.  Balam is interested in research on tropical infectious diseases, both from an immunological and vaccinal perspective.

Related publication(s):
Vaccine 34 (2016) 1566 - 1574

Anne C. Teirlinck

Funded by the EVI supported EMVDA PhD programme

Based at: Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre (RUNMC), The Netherlands
First Supervisor: Professor R.W. Sauerwein, RUNMC, The Netherlands
Second Supervisor: Dr. Ed Remarque, BPRC, The Netherlands

The induction and maintenance of cellular immunity against P. falciparum.

The main objectives are:

  • To analyse the longevity and composition of cellular immune responses following experimental sporozoite inoculation in humans
  • To compare homologous and heterologous  immunological cellular immune responses after controlled human malaria infections.

Anne studied Biomedical Sciences at the Radboud University in Nijmegen and graduated from her master in 2008 with the two majors Human Pathobiology and Epidemiology. Her main interest lies in tropical infectious diseases, both from an immunological and epidemiological perspective.

Related publications:
Infect Immun, v.83(9); 2015 Sep, PMC4534665
J Infec. Dis 2014, vol. 210, issue 12