The Pirbright Institute delivers world-leading research to understand, predict, detect and respond to viral disease outbreaks. We study viruses of livestock that are endemic and exotic to the UK, including zoonotic viruses, by using the most advanced tools and technologies to understand host-pathogen interactions in animals and arthropod vectors. Our major strength in understanding the immune systems of livestock provides a platform to control current diseases and respond to emerging threats.
Our Institute is made up of a dynamic and vibrant community of staff covering a diverse set of chosen fields, backgrounds and experience. We all play a crucial role in furthering the Institute’s aspirations, advancing the frontiers of science and knowledge through our excellent scientific research, knowledge sharing and contribution; with a real focus in improving the world in which we live. Our outlook is always balanced by our strong sense of purpose, values and behaviours and an unwavering commitment to a ‘one Institute’ approach.
Organisation position and purpose
This position is part of a multi-institution project led by The Pirbright Institute to develop genetic methods to reduce the spread of flaviviruses in collaboration with the University of Tartu, Estonia. Flaviviruses include a range of important pathogens including dengue, Zika, yellow fever and West Nile viruses. This project builds in part on a successful ongoing collaboration to engineer mosquitoes with reduced ability to transmit alphaviruses such as chikungunya virus.
Insect synthetic biologists are beginning to develop the technical ability to manipulate wild populations by introgressing synthetic genes and traits to alter wild-type phenotypes. Ongoing projects explore several potentially interesting candidate traits for such an approach, including reduced-vector-competence phenotype (reduced ability to transmit a pathogen, for example dengue or Zika viruses), and reduced-fitness phenotypes (leading to suppression or elimination of the target population upon infection).
Dengue, Zika and other established or emerging arboviral diseases impose significant morbidity and mortality. In few cases are licensed drugs or vaccines available. However, the dependence of these viruses on specific mosquito species, combined with recent advances in mosquito synthetic biology, potentially provides new approaches. We will engineer the major vector mosquito Aedes aegypti to reduce its ability to transmit selected flaviviruses. A key aspect is to develop broad-spectrum methods that will inhibit spread of multiple viruses, and thereby provide a tool for control of yet-unknown emerging viruses in this family, as well as for known ones. We will focus on methods to kill cells on infection so that they are unable to support virus transmission. This approach is inspired by natural anti-virus defence mechanisms and uses components and designs based on our strong collective track record in molecular virology and mosquito synthetic biology. We will pursue several technical approaches in parallel (i) to mitigate the risk that one of these ambitious approaches may not fully achieve its design goals; (ii) to provide multiple independent means to interfere with virus transmission, which in combination would greatly reduce the possibility of virus escape mutants.
The post-holder will report to the Team Leader, Sanjay Basu and through them to the Group Leader, Prof Luke Alphey. Main duties and responsibilities are described below. The post-holder will also be expected to contribute as required to the training and supervision of additional members of the Group, including junior research staff, technicians and students whether directly engaged in this specific project or on other projects in the Group, to project management, to reporting to the funding agency and other stakeholders and to help maintain and strengthen the Group’s collaborative links with other research groups both nationally and internationally.
Main duties and responsibility
The successful applicant’s work will focus on the development and analysis of new tools and strategies for the genetic control of pest insects. Duties and responsibilities include, but are not limited to:
Responsible for virology studies, which will include:
· Transfection of mammalian and arthropod cell lines
· Propagation and maintenance of virus stocks
· In vivo virus-vector interaction studies assessing wildtype and transgenic mosquitoes
· In vitro analysis of virus infected and non-infected samples (e.g. cells, mosquitoes) using a wide range of techniques including: plaque assay, TCID~50 and luciferase assays
· Assisting with wider group activities including in vivo (vector-virus interaction) studies
Responsible for molecular biology, which will include:
· Plasmid design and construction
· Plasmid cloning and in vitro analysis of functionality
· General molecular techniques including PCR, qPCR, primer design, sequence alignment etc.
Responsible for working as part of an established team, which will include:
· Communicating progress and data, including reporting progress to the consortium and funding agency (monthly)and preparing manuscripts for publication
· Assisting colleagues on other work packages within the grant as workflow priorities change
· Co-ordination with other consortium members
This job description is only an outline of the tasks, responsibilities and outcomes required of the role. The jobholder will carry out any other duties as may be reasonably required by his/her line manager. The job description and personal specification may be reviewed on an ongoing basis in accordance with the changing needs of The Pirbright Institute.
All employees shall actively participate in the Institute-wide quality assurance system in conjunction with the Institute’s Quality Manager. Employees are also expected to safeguard their own health and safety and security by following policies and all employees are responsible for the Health and Safety and security of staff under their management.
Enthusiastic, energetic, intellectually engaged, results-oriented, good time management skills, reliability under pressure, good problem-solving skills, and adaptability in adjusting to changing priorities.
· A PhD or equivalent in a relevant branch of biosciences
· Significant bench experience in a recognised R&D environment
· An excellent track-record of research productivity, relative to experience
· Significant experience of cell culture and aseptic techniques including in vitro analysis
· Significant virology experience working with ACDP hazard group 2 viruses
· Evidence of good oral and written communication skills including the ability to communicate effectively within a team
· Experience of handing ACDP hazard group 3 viruses
· Experience of vector-virus interaction studies
· A research career studying multiple viruses (especially arboviruses)
· Molecular biology experience (PCR, qPCR,plasmid design, construction and analysis)
· Evidence of working with dynamic teams with changing priorities
· Capacity to travel within UK and overseas, with long hours and occasional overnight or longer stays
What we offer
· Generous Group Personal Pension Scheme and life cover (subject to age and earnings)
· 25 days’ annual leave per annum, pro rata, plus 10.5 public and privilege days
· Pirbright gym with subsidised membership
· Pirbright social club
· Pirbright Lifestyle Hub (employee discount site)
· Cycle to work
· Subsidised staff restaurant
· Childcare vouchers and a subsidised childcare allowance
· Free onsite parking
To apply for this vacancy click on the link below: