Project activities started with a Kick off meeting held in Siena on May 2014, when the criteria for the selection of the fellows have been discussed; the recruitment started in July 2014, when the call was published on several websites and the selection was concluded on September 2014. The Early Stage Researchers (ESR) selected for each position are:
ESR1: Maricarmen Rojas-López;
ESR2: Ricardo Jorge Rego Monteiro;
ESR3: Ilham Naili Rideout;
ESR4: Giulia Sagrestani.
The four fellows started between January and February 2015: ESR1 and ESR3 started at GSKVACSRL and will move to INRA after 19 months; ESR2 and ESR4 started at INRA and will move to GSKVACSRL after 17 months.
At GSKVACSRL Maricarmen Rojas-López, by a complementary approach exploiting both Reverse Vaccinology and molecular epidemiology tools, has identified new promising vaccine candidates that are expected to be able to induce protective functional antibodies against intestinal Escherichia coli (InPEC) strains. She is currently involved in the study of immunogenicity of few selected promising antigens.
Ricardo Jorge Rego Monteiro started at INRA studying the cell surface and different cellular compartment proteome applying a Mass Spectrometry approach. Moreover he analysed the bacterial interaction with the host cells in order to better understand the level of expression of selected antigens during infection.
At GSKVACSRL Ilham Naili Rideout focused her research on the adaptive response, studying both cellular and serological key elements. She started investigating the response to antigens previously identified at GSKVACSRL.
Giulia Sagrestani started at INRA studying the role that macrophages play in response to E. coli infection. To pursue her research objectives she applied both in vivo and in vitro models.
All fellows participated to several training activities, both specific for their individual research projects, and on general and transferable skills, such as presentation skills, IP, legal, Grant proposal writing skills.
The fellows participated, and will participate in the future, in dissemination activities, presenting the results of their research to PhD workshops and scientific meetings.
Aiming to improve awareness of general public of the importance of preventive strategies against E. coli infections as an important way to improve quality of life and reduce the risk of life-threatening outbreaks from novel and uncontrolled hyper-virulent strains, the students are and will be involved in outreach activities.
DISCo (A multidisciplinary Doctoral Industrial School on novel preventive strategies against E. Coli infections) is a doctoral school that originates from the common interest of GlaxoSmithKline Vaccines Srl (GSKVACSRL) and the French National Institute for Agronomical Research (INRA) in preventing E. coli infections. Both Institutes have a strong background in microbial pathogenesis, supported by a number of ongoing research programmes aimed at combating human infectious diseases. In particular, GSKVACSRL, by using a high-throughput in silico genomic approach, named “Reverse Vaccinology”, has recently delivered on the market Bexsero® that have been introduced in vaccination schedule in different Country for the prevention of meningococcal diseases. Starting from this successful achievement, we aim at applying both bioinformatic and experimental approaches (including proteomic, functional and immunological studies) to identify bacterial surface associated determinants able to induce cross-protective antibodies against different E. coli pathotypes. GSKVACSRL has already successfully exploited subtractive Reverse Vaccinology approach to identify novel immunogenic antigens capable of inducing protection against extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli species in a mouse model of sepsis. This doctoral program aims to extend such analysis to intestinal E. coli pathotypes for which a broadly protective vaccine is still not available but it would aid in the control of morbidity and mortality associated to diarrheal disease (especially in developing countries). Therefore, by combining the industrial expertise developed in GSKVACSRL with the academic research quality of INRA, we are implementing a strong training programme for young scientists who will have the unique opportunity to learn state-of-the art technologies jointly with the possibility of applying laboratory discoveries to industrial applications. The young fellows’ training path will be complemented by the transferable skills courses organized by the SME ALTA, and will culminate with the formal obtainment of the PhD title from two well recognized European universities, such as University of Roma 3 (Italy) and University of Auvergne (France).