Oxford Vaccine Effort Towards COVID-19

Oxford University has joined the global effort to fight COVID-19 (also referred to as SARS-Cov2) and is recruiting healthy volunteers to test a new vaccine. This comes after both the USA and China announced that they were starting clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines. The team from the University’s Jenner Institute is working in collaboration with the Oxford Vaccine Group to conduct the trial which has been approved by UK regulators.

The team, led by Prof. Sarah Gilbert, Prof. Andrew Pollard, Prof. Teresa Lambe, Dr. Sandy Douglas and Prof. Adrian Hill, started designing the vaccine on the 10th of January as soon as the first genome sequence of COVID-19 was made publicly available. The vaccine candidate put forward for the trial uses a chimpanzee adenovirus vector (ChAdOx1) previously developed by the Jenner Institute. It was chosen as the most suitable vaccine technology as only one dose is required to generate a strong immune response and the adenovirus vector is defective so cannot cause an infection in the vaccinated individual. So far, the ChAdOx1 vector technology has been successfully used in vaccines targeting over 10 different diseases.

Coronaviruses (including COVID-19. SARS and MERS) have a club-shaped protein on their surfaces called spike protein. Previous studies of coronavirus vaccines suggested that the spike protein is a good vaccine target. The genetic sequence of the COVID-19 surface spike protein is introduced inside the ChAdOx1 vector. Once the ChAdOx1 vector enters a cell, the host machinery transcribes and translates the genetic sequence and the COVID-19 spike protein is expressed. The spike protein then serves as a training tool for B cells, leading to the production of antibodies against the spike protein. Antibodies work as tailored weapons targeting a specific pathogen, in this case, COVID-19. A vaccinated individual is expected to develop an effective immunological arsenal against COVID-19 which will be instrumental to fight and prevent the infection or, at least, reduce its severity.

Due to the urgent need for means to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the production of the vaccine is already being scaled up to produce enough stock for large clinical trials and potentially future deployment. This will ensure that as soon as the vaccine is proven safe and effective, it can be available for the people that need it the most, including frontline healthcare workers, the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.

Writen by Kate Dicker, WT IITM DPhil student

References:

  1. Clinical Trials Arena. Covid-19: China to launch clinical trials for coronavirus vaccine, (2020).
  2. Clinical Trials Arena. First US clinical trial of Covid-19 vaccine candidate begins, (2020).
  3. University of Oxford. Oxford COVID-19 vaccine programme opens for clinical trial recruitment, (2020).
  4. University of Oxford. About the COVID-19 vaccine trials ,(2020).

Positions available in the Gallego lab

Our colleagues from the Gallego lab in Barcelona, are now recruiting a Postdoc and a PhD position.

Oriol Gallego works at the interface between Cell Biology and Structural Biology, and aims to resolve biological mechanisms driving cell growth. His group develop new intracellular nanotools that help to enhance the resolutive power of live-cell imaging. This toolbox allows to answer biological questions that could not be tackled by other means. They have a brand new lab and equipment. The Gallego lab is based PRBB, an excellent research center in Barcelona, which is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and with a highly international scientific environment. 
They seek for a Postdoc with expertise in quantitative live-cell microscopy (ideally, a microscopist with background in biophysics, optical physics or image analysis) and a PhD student (background in life-sciences, ideally with expertise in biophysics, biochemistry, structural biology or bioinformatics) to join our lab. Please, see the links for more details on the Postdoc and the PhD positions and visit www.gallegolab.org.

iCASE scholarship (PhD/DPhil) to elucidate how the brain develops

This scholarship will allow you to work in a multidisciplinary team between Prof. Ilan Davis (Microscopy and brain development), Alfredo Castello (RNA biology and viruses) and Martin Booth (Industrial partner Aurox.ltd).

Combining these expertise, we will build an affordable very fast confocal microscope with a small footprint, dedicated to prolonged live cell imaging of explanted brains in 3D, as well as to rapid 3D imaging of multiple single RNA molecules. Once built the microscope will have many applications. Depending on the background of the student, the work will involve a balance of optical engineering / biological experiments / data analysis. The student will have access to world leading training and collaborations through Micron Oxford to all the relevant expertise required for these three disciplines.