A Cambridge:Brazil collaborative partnership for molecular characterisation and diagnostic development to fight Oropouche fever, a neglected tropical viral disease.

University of Cambridge

  • Post Doctoral Position - Academic
  • Research Scientist
Job Type/Arrangement:
  • Full Time

Oropouche virus (OROV) is the etiological agent of Oropouche fever, a debilitating febrile human illness that is endemic to South America. OROV is an insect-transmitted RNA virus that circulates in wild animals. However, spill-over into the human population has caused multiple outbreaks in South America over the last 60 years, highlighting its epidemic potential. Over half a million people in Brazil have been infected with OROV, although this is likely to be an underestimate because Oropouche fever is commonly mistaken for Dengue fever due to their similar clinical symptoms. There is no licensed vaccine to prevent OROV infection, nor do we have a comprehensive understanding of the immune response to this virus. Furthermore, there is an unmet need for robust assays that can be used at primary points of care in the community to accurately diagnose OROV-infected individuals.  This project will produce high-quality antigens, antibodies and assays to interrogate the immune response to OROV infection and to facilitate development of OROV molecular diagnostic kits for use in the field. Specifically, we will purify OROV antigens for the generation of high-quality anti-OROV antibodies. Surface antigens will be produced using human cell lines, ensuring the authentic glycosylation of these OROV proteins. The antigens and antibodies thus produced will be used to develop sensitive assays for the detection of OROV infection in animal models. Furthermore, we will use these assays to probe for OROV antigen and antibodies in human serum samples from OROV-endemic areas of Brazil, illuminating the prevalence of OROV seroconversion in the human population and providing proof-of-concept for development of a simple cost-effective in field diagnostic kit. We will also use animal models of infection to monitor the immune response to OROV infection and to probe the use of recombinant OROV surface antigens as candidate vaccines. 

The proposed project will bring together leading laboratories in the University of Cambridge (UK) and the University of São Paulo (Brazil), with complementary expertise in recombinant protein production and OROV infection assays, respectively. Importantly, this project will establish a protein production and purification pipeline at the University of São Paulo for the rapid development of diagnostic reagents to OROV and additional emerging viruses. Such capacity building is essential given the changes to insect distribution that are accompanying global climate change, expanding the geographical range of OROV and other zoonotic viruses and thus increasing the likelihood of spill-over events into human populations.

Education Requirement:

Applications are invited for a Research Associate (fixed term) to join an international multi-disciplinary collaboration led by Dr Stephen Graham (Cambridge, UK) and Prof. Eurico Arruda (São Paulo, Brazil) to develop new diagnostic tools and vaccine candidates to combat Oropouche virus, the causative agent of Oropouche fever. Oropouche virus is endemic to Latin America and the Caribbean and its zoonotic origin, history of human spill-over and multi-segmented RNA genome make it a serious epidemic threat. We seek to develop rapid diagnostic assays that could be deployed in low resource environments and to define the immunological responses to Oropouche virus infection, with a view to developing vaccine candidates and diagnostic kits for rapid deployment in future Oropouche virus outbreaks. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to work for an extended period in Brazil to perform pathogenesis experiments using live Oropouche virus. This project is an exciting opportunity to learn and apply cutting-edge techniques in order to address an important-yet-understudied human disease.

Candidates should have a passion for science and hold a PhD or equivalent in biochemistry, virology, immunology or a related field. Excellent communication, organizational and problem-solving skills, a demonstrated ability to publish high-quality research, and the ability to work both independently and as part of a team are essential. Experience in vaccinology, recombinant protein expression, biomolecular interaction analysis and working under biological containment conditions (CL2 and CL3) are highly desirable. The duties/responsibilities of this post include developing and driving research objectives, preparing research results for presentation/publication, engaging in public outreach via social media and in-person events, mentoring undergraduate and graduate students, and delivering seminars. The successful candidate will be required to work both in Cambridge and Sao Paulo for extended periods of time (12-18 months). The collaborating laboratories employ a wide range of techniques, from infection studies and pathogenesis to biophysics and macromolecular structure determination, and support will be available for the successful candidate to expand their skills. If you are a biomedical scientist with a track record of publishing at an internationally-competitive level, are prepared to face intellectual challenges and wish to develop your scientific skills by working on an important neglected tropical disease we want to hear from you.

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society. We are particularly keen to encourage applications by candidates from Latin America or the Caribbean where Oropouche virus is endemic.

The closing date for all applications is Monday 23 November 2020 and interviews will be held soon afterwards.

Fixed-term: The funds for this post are available for an immediate start for an initial period of 12 months, subject to annual review with the expectation that it will be extended for 3 years.

Once an offer of employment has been accepted, the successful candidate will be required to undergo a health assessment. Applications are welcome from internal candidates who would like to apply for the role on the basis of a secondment from their current role in the University.

Click the 'Apply' button below to register an account with our recruitment system (if you have not already) and apply online.

For further details or informal enquires please contact Stephen Graham via email (scg34@cam.ac.uk)

Please quote reference PK24454 on your application and in any correspondence about this vacancy.

The University has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK and Brazil.

Cambridge, United Kingdom
Tennis Court Road
Cambridge , Cambridgeshire CB2 1QP
Stephen Graham, PhD