PhD Scholarship in ‘Using nanoparticles to enhance the immune response and improve vaccine efficacy’

Enhancing the immune response using nanoparticles and assessing their vaccine potential in animal models of cancer and malaria.

This project will examine the immune response to vaccines using various nanoparticle formulations and determine how they interact with cells to generate a strong immune response, capable of protecting against severe diseases such as cancer or malaria.

The value of the Scholarship is equivalent to an RMIT full Scholarship

This Scholarship will be available for 3.5 Years.

Applications are open now.

Position will remain open until filled.

Will have Honours or Masters in either immunology, vaccines, microbiology, parasitology, biochemistry, or nanoengineering. Animal handling experience preferable. 

Desirable criteria:

  • Practical experience and conceptual background in cellular immunology.
  • Experience in animal (specifically mouse) handling.
  • Experience in tissue culture

To apply, please submit the following documents to Prof. Magdalena Plenbanski via magdalena.plebanski@rmit.edu.au and Dr Kirsty Wilson via kirsty.wilson2@rmit.edu.au.

  • A copy of electronic academic transcripts
  • A CV that includes any publications/awards and the contact details of two referees

Vaccines remain one of the most cost-effective medical interventions for the prevention of disease and are readily available for many diseases, however there is a need for vaccines to complex diseases such as malaria and cancer. Vaccines to complex diseases are more difficult to design and manufacture due to the complicated lifecycle of the pathogens that cause the disease, or the multifactor series of events that occur in not only the pathology of the disease but also the resulting immune response. Designing vaccines for complex diseases requires careful consideration of the candidate antigen and generally requires and adjuvant or alternative delivery system to enhance the immune response to the vaccine, particularly regarding inducing a T cell response.

Our lab focuses on viral sized nanoparticles as adjuvanting vaccine delivery systems to improve both the antibody mediated and cellular immune response. These nanoparticles can either have the vaccine antigen attached to their surface, or be simply mixed with the antigen with a combination of other adjuvants to increase the vaccine response. We are interested in nanoparticles of different materials and compositions to compare to our standard biocompatible and non-inflammatory polystyrene nanoparticles in animal vaccine models, as well as their mechanism of action and how they interact with different cells of the immune system (i.e. with antigen presenting cells).

Aims: This study aims to examine the immune response to vaccines using various nanoparticle formulations and adjuvant combinations and ex, aiming how they interact with cells of the immune system to generate a strong immune response, capable of protecting against severe diseases such as ovarian cancer or malaria.

Hypotheses: Nanoparticles in the viral size range will target antigen presenting cells in the local lymph nodes to elicit a strong vaccine induced immune response dependent on the size and composition of the nanoparticle. We will be able to develop vaccines that effectively prevent an treat severe diseases for which currently there are no effective vaccines.

Methods: Our laboratory uses new and standard cell biology/immunology techniques to assess the phenotype and function of immune cells from animal models, including; multicolour flowcytometry (up to 20 simultaneous markers on cells), cell sorting, multiplex cytokine analysis (Luminex), IVIS imaging, as well as ELISA, ELISPOT, immunohistology/immunofluorescence, proliferation and functional T cell assays. There is also potential scope to use RNAseq and epigenetic analysis of immune cell populations, and animal models of cancer and malaria.

For further inquiries please contact Distinguished Professor Magdalena Plebanski (magdalena.plebanski@rmit.edu.au) and Dr Kirsty Wilson (kirsty.wilson2@rmit.edu.au).

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Acknowledgement of country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.