A multidisciplinary Doctoral Industrial School on
novel preventive strategies against E. Coli infections
A multidisciplinary Doctoral Industrial School on
novel preventive strategies against E. Coli infections
In 2008 and 2010, I obtained my Bachelor degree in Biomedical Sciences and M.S. in Microbiology, respectively, both degrees from the Meritorious Autonomous University of Puebla (Universidad Autónoma de Puebla), Mexico. During the course of these studies I developed a strong interest in infectious diseases and host-pathogen interaction. My M.S. work was aimed at the identification of regulatory mechanisms controlling virulence factors of enterohemorrhaghic Escherichia coli O157:H7. After that and until 2012, I worked at the University of Texas Medical Branch characterizing virulence factors of an emerging strain of E. coli serotype O104:H4, pathogen responsible of a large outbreak in Germany and Europe. Later on 2012, I had the opportunity to work at Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health in the field of Malaria research. My work there consisted in the construction and characterization of chimeric Plasmodium spp parasites and the characterization of the immune response elicited on mice. Going from molecular bacteriology to parasitology has given me a broader view of research, taught me how to fully integrate my previous knowledge into a completely different field and made me more resourceful to apply these skills in new areas of research. All these scientific work and training translated into one first author peer-reviewed publication, five papers published as co-author and one more currently in preparation. Now, I am part of the DISCo project which main aim is to identify cross-protective antigens to develop a vaccine against intestinal pathogenic E. coli strains. This project involves trainings at GSKVACSRL, INRA, UNIROMA3 and UDA under the supervision of Roberto Rosini (Principal Supervisor, GSKVACSRL); Mickaël Desvaux (INRA); Alain Gobert (VUMC); Fabio Polticelli (UNIROMA3).
I joined the university education in the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro (UTAD Portugal, 2007). In 2011, I completed the graduation in Genetics and Biotechnology, where I started the research activity with an end graduation stage in the Centre for Genomics and Biotechnology, Functional Genomics and Proteomics Lab at University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro. Two years after, in November 2013, I completed the Master degree in Molecular, Comparative and Technological Genetics. On the last year of the Master degree, during the thesis dissertation, I moved, for a short duration stage of 4 months, to the INRA Clermont-Ferrand (France), Microbiology Unit, integrated in an Inter-University convention. The first six months of 2014 were spent in France (INRA Clermont-Ferrand) continuing the Inter-University convention. Research work developed up to date was focused on the use of omics tools, particularly in genomics and proteomics at the level of molecular genetics in microbial species. Actually the activity and interested areas of research are differential proteomics and functional genomics applied to intestinal pathogenic bacteria. With regard to scientific production I had published 11 articles, one of which as author and the remaining 10 as co-author, and 12 communications in scientific meetings. Since January 2015, I became PhD student in DISCo with a project entitled “Identification of novel adhesins in pathogenic E. coli strains as a strategy for preventing intestinal colonization”.
My scientific career began when I left Morocco to settle down in France, where I began my bachelor in Physiology and Cell Biology at the Université Joseph Fourier, Grenoble. I had the opportunity to spend my last year as an exchange student at the University of California, San Diego, a campus known for its emphasis on biological studies. During that year, I focused on what I quickly found to be my passion, microbiology, and started an internship studying the biofilm formation of environmental strains of Vibrio cholera. I decided to continue my scientific path in San Diego, where I enjoyed the work environment and the strong microbiology community. I joined the Master of Microbiology at San Diego State University, and studied for five years the effects of a synthetic broad-spectrum antibacterial hexapeptide in vitro, as well as in vivo using mouse infection models. I accepted a position as a Technical Support Representative in the biotechnology company InvivoGen, San Diego, for 18 months, after which I left the American West Coast to come back to France, determined to get my PhD.
As part of the DISCo project, I chose to take on an immunology project, and my goal is to characterize the immune response generated by two antigens from a neonatal meningitis E. coli strain previously identified by GSKVACSRL. Once I will have identified and optimized the best route of immunization for these antigens, I will carry this model at INRA, France, where I will analyze how these immunizations affect the composition of the intestinal microbiota. With the work of my three colleagues in the DISCo project, we hope to set the baselines to build a broad spectrum E. coli vaccine.
My scientific activity started at the Bacteriology laboratory of the Italian National Institute for Infectious Disease, as student for the Bachelor degree. During this training, I learned the main methodologies used in clinical and diagnostic microbiology performing also specific protocols for direct and indirect mycobacteria search. Then, at the laboratory of Molecular Oncogenesis of the “Regina Elena” National Cancer Institute in Rome, I started my thesis for the MSc in Biological Science. During the course of my studies and training in molecular biology, I developed a significant competence in a broad variety of laboratory techniques ranging from molecular to cellular biology. For the thesis preparation, I worked on a project aimed at understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying the transcriptional regulation of microRNA (miRNA) let-7c expression in Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML). Moreover, in the framework of a collaborative project between the Cancer Biology Department at the Kimmel Cancer Centre, Thomas Jefferson University (Philadelphia, USA), and my thesis’s supervisor, I contributed to the identification by microarrays of a novel set of miRNA targets of the oncogenic transcription factor c-Myb in the hematopoietic system, as a result of specific knockdown of c-Myb by RNAi. In the same period I was also involved in a collaborative project on brain tumours dealing with the identification in easily obtained biological fluids (serum), of useful molecules as biomarker.
At present, I am participating in the Marie-Curie Industrial PhD program “DISCo”, focused on the implementation of new preventive strategies against intestinal pathogenic E. coli. The four PhD projects of this program cover different aspects of vaccine development, ranging from antigen discovery based on genomic and functional studies to immunological aspects of the host response to immunization, including the modulation of the gut microbiota after immunization and formulation of selected antigens with immune modulator molecules. My PhD project aims at characterizing the immunological contribution of these immune molecules to the formulation of an E. coli vaccine.
Mariagrazia Pizza is a Discovery Project Leader at GSK Vaccines, Siena, Italy.
She has worked as scientist and project leader on different bacterial projects, contributed to the development of the first pertussis vaccine based on a genetically detoxified pertussis toxin, introduced in the market in 1993, and of a MenB vaccine, now approved in 38 countries worldwide.
She is the recipient of many scientific awards, including the EFPIA (European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations) Award for Research, the Biotec Award for Research on Mucosal Adjuvants, the Galeno Award for Career Achievements, the “Santa Caterina d’Oro” Award for scientific research and the Novartis VIVA (Vision, Innovation, Value, Achievement) Award, conferred to recognize exceptional contributions made by Novartis scientists working in research and development worldwide.
She is member of EMBO and of the European Academy of Microbiology and Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology.
She has over 160 publications in international peer-reviewed journals.
Dr Mickaël Desvaux (Hab, PhD, Mag) is Research Director (DR) in the Microbiology Unit (UR454) at the INRA (French National Institute for Agronomical Research) Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Research Centre based in Clermont-Ferrand at the site of Theix in France. His research focuses on the protein secretion in relation to the interaction of bacterial cells with the environment. He develops further the secretome concept for global investigation of protein secretion in bacterial cells, especially using functional genetics, proteogenomic and proteomic approaches. Main scientific questions are related to the physiology of bacterial protein secretion and the involvement of secreted proteins, either displayed on the cell surface or released in the extracellular milieu, in the bacterial colonization processes.
After a Magister in Microbiology and Enzymology, he pursued and obtained his Doctorate in Structural, Molecular and Cellular Biology from the Université Henri Poincaré - Nancy I (France) in 2001 investigating the physiology of an anaerobic cellulolytic bacterium, Clostridium cellulolyticum. From there, he pursued his research career with a BBSRC postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Birmingham (UK) at the Institute for Biomedical Research in the Genomics and Pathogenesis Unit, where he worked on the Type V secretion system (T5SS) in pathogenic E. coli. In 2005, he was nominated Research Supervisor (CR) and moved at the INRA Microbiology Research Unit based in Clermont-Ferrand (France) investigating protein secretion and biofilm formation in Listeria monocytogenes. He obtained his Habilitation in Molecular Microbiology from the Université d'Auvergne - Clermont-Ferrand I in 2010 and was promoted Research Director (DR) in 2015, where he now focuses on the mechanisms of surface colonization by pathogenic E. coli along the food chain, from animal, food to human. He is author of >60 scientific articles (h-index: 26, ResearcherID: A-8333-2008), Associate Editor for Frontiers in Microbiology, Academic Editor for PLOS ONE and Editorial Board Member of Applied & Environmental Microbiology.