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Research Opportunities

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Prospective Students

The goal of the NIH Oxford-Cambridge (OxCam) Scholars Program is to create, foster, and advance unique and collaborative research opportunities between NIH laboratories and laboratories at the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge. Each OxCam Scholar develops a collaborative research project that will constitute his/her doctoral training. Each Scholar also select two mentors – one at the NIH and one in the UK – who work together to guide the Scholar throughout the research endeavor.

Students may select from two categories of projects: Self-designed or Prearranged. OxCam Scholars may create a self-designed project, which enables students to develop a collaborative project tailored to his/her specific scientific interests by selecting one NIH mentor and one UK mentor with expertise in the desired research area(s). Alternatively, students may select a prearranged project provided by NIH and/or UK Investigator(s) willing to mentor an OxCam Scholar in their lab.

Self-designed Projects: Students may create a novel (or de novo) project based on their unique research interests. Students have the freedom to contact any PI at NIH or at Oxford or Cambridge to build a collaboration from scratch. The NIH Intramural Research Program (IRP) represents a community of approximately 1,200 tenured and tenure-track investigators providing a wealth of opportunity to explore a wide variety of research interests. Students may visit https://irp.nih.gov to identify NIH PIs performing research in the area of interest. For additional tips on choosing a mentor, please visit our Training Plan.

Prearranged Projects: Investigators at NIH or at Oxford or Cambridge have voluntarily offered collaborative project ideas for NIH OxCam Scholars. These projects are provided below and categorized by research area, NIH Institute/Center, and University. In some cases, a full collaboration with two mentors is already in place. In other instances, only one PI is identified, which allows the student to select a second mentor to complete the collaboration. Please note that prearranged project offerings are continuously updated throughout the year and are subject to change.

13 Search Results

237
Category:
Immunology
Project:

Understanding immune correlates of protective immunity

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
UK Mentor:
N/A
University:
N/A
Project Details:

We have several lines of research that accommodate excellent PhD candidates. These revolve around the theme of RNA viral pathogens, antibodies/B-cell responses and immunodeficiencies.


The first involves understanding Immune Correlates of protective immunity, specifically which types of B-cell response and their fine specificities are important for protection against specific RNA viral pathogens (RNA viruses from HIV, HCV to Ebola) how B-cell responses to correlate with protection by vaccines to specific pathogens. The 2nd project involves using broadly neutralizing monoclonal antibodies to develop improved and novel vaccines against notoriously variable viruses. The 3rd project involves understanding how the resident virome in primary, acquired or induced immunodeficiencies leads to chronic immune activation and poor prognosis, with an emphasis on mucosal immunity.

236
Category:
Immunology
Project:

Examining germinal centre (GC) biology during normal function and in aging

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI)
University:
Cambridge
Project Details:

CRISPr genome editing to understand the germinal centre response upon vaccination throughout the lifespan. At the heart of the immune response to vaccination is the germinal centre (GC) – a dynamic structure that forms in secondary lymphoid tissues after immunisation, and produces long-lived plasma cells, which secrete antibodies that block pathogens from establishing an infection, and memory B cells. A defining property of the GC is the collaboration of multiple cell types: proliferating B cells, T follicular helper cells, T follicular regulatory cells and follicular dendritic cells to produce effector B cells of higher quality. With age, the magnitude of the GC response decreases resulting in impaired production of plasma cells, lower serum antibody levels and consequently, decreased protection against subsequent infection. This project aims to identify and characterise molecules that are important for germinal centre biology in the context of normal function and in ageing, using CRISPR-mediated mutagenesis to screen for novel players in T follicular helper cells. We will take advantage of mouse models and human cohorts to generate mechanistic understanding of the GC response that is of direct relevance to human biology.

234
Category:
Immunology
Project:
N/A
Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
NIH Mentor:

Dr. Michael Lenardo

UK Mentor:

Prof. Ken Smith

University:
Cambridge
Project Details:

We have the largest world-wide collection of patients suffering from rare-inherited immunodeficiency that have been whole-genome sequenced (1500+ cases). Using established analytical expertise the candidate will use novel methods to interrogate and filter potential genetic mutations, we will identify novel candidate genetic loci in patients grouped by disease phenotype or familial relationship. Candidate genetic loci will be investigated using CRISPR-editing of patient derived material (lymphoblastoid, fibroblast and iPS cell lines). Confirmatory studies at mRNA, protein and functional level will be carried out to validate the link between variant and disease.

226
Category:
Immunology
Project:

Investigating the impact of dendritic cell-T cell interactions on autocrine complement activation in CD4 T cells

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
NIH Mentor:

Dr. Claudia Kemper

University:
Cambridge
Project Details:

In this project, we will investigate how different stimuli including IgG-immune complexes and TLR ligands affect the ability of DCs to influence T cell autocrine complement regulation. This is of relevance to our understanding of how inflammation is propagated in autoimmunity and for vaccination boost strategies.

220
Category:
Immunology
Project:

Examining inflammasome formation using microscopy

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
UK Mentor:
N/A
University:
N/A
Project Details:

The inflammasome consists of a cytosolic NOD-like receptor, an adaptor molecule (ASC) and an effector molecules caspase 1.  Once activated the inflammasome processes inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin 1 beta (IL1B) and IL18 as well as driving an aggressive form of cell death (pyroptosis).  Inflammasomme protein complexes are central to sustaining inflammation in acute diseases (like COVID-19 associated ARDS) or chronic conditions (such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s, diabetes, arthritis).  Patients with rare autoactivating mutations in the NLR proteins have basally active inflammasomes leading to severe autoinflammatory syndromes. How inflammasome complexes form within the cell, particularly in patients with autoactivating mutations in NLRs are poorly understood.  

The aims of this project are as follows:
1.      Identify the molecular mechanisms by which the gain of function mutations causes constitutive activation of the NLRs
2.      Determine why gain of function mutations in different NLRs (NLRP3 and NLRC4) result in differences in inflammasome cytokine production with NLRP3 biased towards IL1B and NLRC4 towards IL18
3.      Visualise how gain of function mutations alter inflammasome formation by visualising the protein complexes at super resolution and atomic resolution

This project will study how the inflammasome forms using state of the art microscopy techniques including live super resolution imaging and cyroelectron microscopy tomography.  The consequences of the gain of function mutations on inflammasome formation will be studied using these techniques in cell lines where the key proteins are tagged and the gain of function mutations introduced by CRISPR/Cas9 (many of which are already available within the laboratory).  This work will be extended to consider cells from patients with these diseases to map back the biology and the imaging onto the cell line models.   

204
Category:
Immunology
Project:

Are metabolites generated by the microbiota key to a young immune system?

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
N/A
NIH Mentor:
N/A
UK Mentor:

Prof. Katja Simon

University:
Oxford
Project Details:
N/A
189
Category:
Immunology
Project:

To investigate how apolipoproteins modify immune cell function in innate and adaptive airway inflammatory cells

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
NIH Mentor:

Dr. Stewart Levine

UK Mentor:

Prof. Timothy Hinks

University:
Oxford
Project Details:

Asthma is the world’s commonest chronic lung disease, affecting 350 million people worldwide. The advent of novel ‘biologic’ therapies targeting specific phenotypes of asthma is currently revolutionizing the treatment of patients with type 2 inflammation. However, there are no specific treatments available for the 50% of patients with type 2 low disease. The Levine group has identified a novel pathobiologic mechanism involving dysregulation of apoplipoproteins, which may play an important role in this phenotype by regulating the recruitment and function of innate and adaptive immune cells, which may have relevance for resistance to corticosteroids. Peptide mimetics of these molecules have potential as novel therapies for asthma, especially for patients with type 2 low neutrophilic inflammation. Dr Hinks group uses in vitro, murine and ex vivo human studies on highly phenotyped asthmatics to explore the biology of the inflamed airway mucosa, particularly innate and adaptive immune cells. Through this collaboration the student would use a range of techniques and a mix of wet lab science and human experimental medicine to understand the translational potential of apolipoprotein biology in human asthma.

141
Category:
Immunology
Project:

Investigating the role of transcription factor networks in T cell immunoregulatory fate decisions

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
University:
Oxford
Project Details:

Regulatory T cells expressing the FoxP3 transcription factor (Tregs) are arguably the most important naturally-occurring anti-inflammatory cells in the body and are prime candidates for cellular therapy of autoimmunity and transplant rejection. They are potently immunosuppressive, indispensable for maintaining self-tolerance and in resolving inflammation. Tregs can be induced to develop dichotomously from naïve precursors that also have the ability to differentiate into inflammatory T cell lineages. The choice of differentiation pathway (“fate decisions”) is directed by environmental signals and interplay between many transcription factors working within networks. The expression of many genes is required for a healthy immune response and this is highlighted by the discovery of many gene mutations that are associated with very early onset auto-immune disease.

Our goal is to understand how transcriptional signals from the environment are integrated in T cells to determine inflammatory versus regulatory T cell differentiation and the quality and duration of effector function. Experimental approaches will involve genomics of patients with primary immuno-deficiencies and very early onset colitis, next generation sequencing platforms (RNA-seq, ChIP-seq, Cut&Run, ATAC-seq, scRNAseq), molecular and cell biology, CRISPR genome editing and in vivo murine models.

129
Category:
Immunology
Project:

Understanding of the mechanisms through which CD4 T helper cells and innate lyphoid cells acquire their specific protective/tissue damaging effects.

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
UK Mentor:
N/A
University:
N/A
Project Details:
N/A
123
Category:
Immunology
Project:

Connection between metabolism and innate immunity using mitochondrial mouse mutant models and quantitative proteomics.

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
University:
Cambridge
Project Details:
N/A
120
Category:
Immunology
Project:
N/A
Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
NIH Mentor:

Dr. Michael Lenardo

University:
Cambridge
Project Details:

The metabolic repertoire of immune cells – which encompasses metabolic enzymes/pathways, the available nutrient sensors and metabolic checkpoint kinases, and the epigenetic programming of metabolic genes – directly enables and modulates specific immune functions. Capitalizing on a large cohort of patients suffering from rare genetic immunodeficiency that have been whole-genome sequenced, our goal is to delineate the genetic and molecular basis of how cellular metabolism regulates immune-function in human health and disease states. Experimental approaches will involve genomics, molecular biology, cell biology, immunology, and biochemistry with an aim to elucidating mechanisms that lead to new treatment approaches to inborn diseases of immunity.

108
Category:
Immunology
Project:

Role of lysosomes in controlling immune function

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
NIH Mentor:

Dr. Michael Sack

UK Mentor:

Prof. Frances Platt

University:
Oxford
Project Details:

The nutrient sensing and quality control linked organelles called lysosomes are best known to immunologists due to their roles in antigen presentation (dendritic cells) and in the facilitation of pathogen elimination (macrophages). Their role in the control of immunity is further recognized that inhibition of lysosomal function can promote anti-inflammatory effects by preventing the degradation of glucocorticoid receptors and conversely that impaired lysosome function in genetic lysosome storage diseases can blunt the number and function of natural killer cells. The Platt laboratory (Dept. of Pharmacology, Univ. of Oxford) investigates immune function in lysosome storage disease and the Sack laboratory (NHLBI, NIH) explores the molecular machinery controlling lysosomal homeostasis and their roles in immunity. An integrated project between the two labs, in collaboration with an NIH OxCam Scholar would be designed to enable the pursuit of an Ph.D. studying the role of lysosomes in controlling immune function.

*This project is available for the 2021 Oxford-NIH Pilot Programme*

104
Category:
Immunology
Project:

Dissecting the role of the complosome in immune cell tissue residency

Project Listed Date:
Institute or Center:
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
NIH Mentor:

Dr. Claudia Kemper

UK Mentor:
N/A
University:
N/A
Project Details:

Intracellular complement (the complosome) emerges as key regulator of key cell metabolic pathways in a range of (immune) cells. In consequence, perturbations in complosome activity contribute to human disease states, including recurrent infections and autoimmunity. Recent data also indicate that high complosome expression is the defining feature of tissue-resident immune cells including T cells and macrophages. In this project, we will combine pertinent mouse models and intravital imaging to address the role of the complosome in maintaining residency and sustaining function crosstalk between immune and parenchymal cells in tissues (lung/kidney/brain?) during normal homeostasis and in disease (which one?).

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