From 30th September to 3rd October 2019, VALIDATE held three back-to-back events, our 2nd Early Career Researcher (ECR) Workshop, the 3rd VALIDATE Annual Meeting, and a VALIDATE-BSI Conference 'Vaccine Development for Neglected Intracellular Pathogens', at The Drum at Wembley, London. We welcomed just under 90 researchers, almost all VALIDATE members, from 19 countries (13 LMIC) worldwide.
The VALIDATE 2nd '‘Post-doc'ing for Success' workshop on 30th September hosted 30 VALIDATE ECRs, including undergraduate and PhD students, Research Assistants, clinicians and post-docs, with the aim of helping them with their career success and progression. The workshop kicked off with a couple of talks by VALIDATE Network Manager Samantha Vermaak, working in her 2nd job role as a Business and Personal Coach, discussing how to career plan for success and what makes for great leadership. Sara Dada from LSHTM's Vaccine Confidence Project then spoke about communicating well around vaccine research, which stimulated some good discussions.
After lunch, a panel of senior VALIDATE members from different science career paths discussed their careers – including the challenges they’ve faced in science and how they overcame them, the choices they made and why, and how they got to the successful positions they’re in now. Chaired by Dr Ann Rawkins (PHE and VALIDATE NMB member), with Dr Steve Lockhart (Pfizer) and Prof Mitali Chatterjee (IPGMER and VALIDATE NMB member), the panel spoke honestly about their career paths, their successes and failures, how they balanced their work and personal lives, and tips and advice for our ECRs for succeeding in a scientific career. Finally, Prof Andrea Cooper (University of Leicester and NMB member) talked the ECRs through how to plan and write a great grant application, giving some excellent tips and advice from her experience both as an applicant and as a reviewer for various funding bodies. The day was wrapped up by a visit to Wagamama's for a well-deserved dinner.
On Tuesday 1st October the VALIDATE NMB and SAB held a closed face-to-face meeting, and then we kicked off the 3rd VALIDATE Annual Meeting. VALIDATE Director Prof Helen McShane welcomed our 78 delegates and Network Manager Samantha Vermaak gave an update on VALIDATE's activities over the last two years, and an insight into what's ahead for the Network, highlighting our final pump-priming call that closes on 22nd October 2019. We then had talks by our most recently funded round (#3) of pump-priming projects, with Prof Myron Christodoulides (University of Southampton) on 'Protective efficacy of conserved Leishmania hypothetical proteins against visceral leishmaniasis', Dr Barbara Kronsteiner-Dobramysl (University of Oxford) on 'Metabolic reprograming of skin microenvironment for improved BCG vaccine efficacy', Dr Sasha Larsen (IDRI) on 'Development of an RNA based vaccine against Mycobacterium tuberculosis', Dr Elena Stylianou (University of Oxford) on 'Developing a mouse model of diabetes to evaluate vaccines for TB and melioidosis', and Dr Julen Tomás Cortázar (University College Dublin) on 'Elucidating the T-cell epitopes and T-cell responses of two B.pseudomallei vaccine antigens'. These interesting talks showcasing the great research VALIDATE has coming up in the next 12 months were followed by Emilie Karafillakis (LSHTM) discussing the 'Monitoring and addressing challenging risks, rumours and reputations across the GCRF Vaccinology Networks' project co-funded by VALIDATE, IMPRINT and HIC-VAC, which aims to help all our members with vaccine hesitancy and media/online reputation management.
After lunch, our round #1 pump-priming projects (funded in November 2017) discussed their completed research, with Sally Hayward (SGUL/LSHTM) discussing 'Enhancing BCG efficacy: the Social Technology Lab Initiative', Dr Javier Salguero Bodes (PHE) 'The effect of BCG vaccination in immune responses against visceral leishmaniasis in a natural (canine) model of infection', Asst Prof Steven Smith (LSHTM) ‘How do functional and metabolic characteristics of trained monocytes affect their anti-bacterial activity?’, Dr Panjaporn Chaichana (MORU) 'Establishment of a functional assay panel to evaluate the role of antibodies in defence against melioidosis and tuberculosis', Dr Rajko Reljic (SGUL) ‘Overcoming innate immune tolerance in the respiratory tract for optimal vaccine design’, and Prof Bernardo Villarreal-Ramos (Aberystwyth University & APHA) 'Natural variation of the bovine lymph node microenvironment and its possible effect on BCG immunogenicity'. These projects had had some interesting scientific outputs that we look forward to seeing in publications soon, and some great career outcomes!
After a break, our Keynote speaker, Affiliate Prof Rhea Coler (IDRI) spoke about 'Novel TB and leprosy vaccines: from the lab bench to clinical trials' from an industry perspective. We closed the formal part of the day with a panel discussion by our funded pump-priming project awardees about their experiences applying for and receiving VALIDATE funding, and the lessons they have learned on the way.
Many of the delegates then joined a behind-the-scenes tour of Wembley Stadium, with two engaging and entertaining guides who soon had us all trying out the press box and running out of the tunnel into the stadium as two teams. The day closed with those delegates who wanted to chat further visiting nearby Zizzi's for dinner together.
The last morning of the Annual Meeting opened on Wednesday 2nd October with talks from two round #2 pump-priming projects (funded August 2018), with Mohamed Osman (University of York) on ‘Identification of Leishmania donovani and Mycobacterium tuberculosis- derived proteins on the surface of infected macrophages that are associated with ADCC induction’, and Prof Susie Dunachie (University of Oxford) with Asst Prof Jackie Cliff (LSHTM) and Patpong Rongkard (Oxford/MORU) on ‘Vaccines to target people with diabetes: characterising the pathways of immune response to M.tuberculosis and B.pseudomallei in people with diabetes compared to non-diabetics’. We look forward to seeing the final data of these projects soon.
This session then moved into talks by our VALIDATE Fellows, with Prof Samantha Sampson (University of Stellenbosch) on behalf of Dr Jomien Mouton (who is on maternity leave) talking about 'Identification of latency associated antigens and biosignatures associated with Mycobacterium tuberculosis' and Dr Rachel Tanner (University of Oxford) about 'Characterising the BCG-induced antibody response to inform the design of improved vaccines against M.tuberculosis, M. leprae and M.bovis'.
After a coffee break, we went into our final session - funder talks aiming to help our members find future funding opportunities. Prof Helen Fletcher spoke about the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) and Newton Fund, Dr Peter Hart on Wellcome Vaccines Funding, Dr Martin Broadstock on MRC Funding Opportunities, and Dr Ceri-Wyn Thomas on BBSRC funding - all very relevant funders for our members and our research field. VALIDATE Director, Prof Helen McShane, then wrapped up a very successful 3rd Annual Meeting; congratulations to Dr Sasha Larsen (IDRI) for winning the 'Best Talk by an ECR' prize.
After lunch, we moved into the VALIDATE-BSI 2019 Conference 'Vaccine Development for Neglected Intracellular Pathogens', with Prof Helen McShane (University of Oxford/VALIDATE) and Dr Doug Brown (British Society for Immunology [BSI]) each giving a welcome address to the Conference delegates. Our first session talks centred on tissue-specific immunity, host-pathogen interactions, macrophages and the microenvironment, chaired by Prof Andrea Cooper (University of Leicester). Our first Keynote Speaker, Prof Clare Lloyd (ICL), spoke about how 'Local and environmental cues dictate the nature of the pulmonary immune response', and was followed by Dr Barbara Kronsteiner-Dobramysl (University of Oxford) on 'Diabetes alters cellular metabolism of T cells: implications for vaccine development', Dr Chidchamai Kewcharoenwong (Khon Kaen University) on ' Glibenclamide alters cytokine production of primary human monocytes from diabetic individuals against Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection', and Dr Isadora Lima (FIOCRUZ) on 'Canine visceral leishmaniasis: the role of tissue-specific immunity in the progression of disease'. After a quick break, our second Keynote Speaker for this session, Prof Tracy Hussell (University of Manchester), spoke on 'Innate sensing of lung health and disease', followed by Dr Lisa Stockdale (University of Oxford) on 'Cytomegalovirus as a correlate of risk for TB?'.
Next followed an interesting 45 minutes of 3-minute turbo talks by poster hosts, with all the speakers impressively sticking to time! Asst Prof Kiran Afshan (Quaid-i-Azam University) spoke on 'Cutaneous Leishmaniasis in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan', Dr Anthony Afum-Adjei Awuah (KCCR) on 'Why fix when you can prevent; towards TB Vaccines Research in Ghana', Dr Federico Carlos Blanco (INTA) on 'The isolate Mb04-303 induce a proinflammatory innate immune profile and is a potential candidate for an attenuated mutant vaccine against bovine tuberculosis', Assoc Prof Mary Burtnick (University of Nevada, Reno) on 'Optimization of melioidosis subunit vaccines using Burkholderia thailandensis E555', Dr Panjaporn Chaichana (MORU) on 'Identification of protective antibody profiles for vaccine development against melioidosis', Assoc Prof Narisara Chantratita (Mahidol University) on 'Risk of Burkholderia pseudomallei infection, host immune response and biomarkers for melioidosis', Asst Prof Ganjana Lertmemongkolchai (Khon Kaen University) on 'Metformin-induced suppression of IFN-α expression via mTORC1 signalling following seasonal vaccination is associated with impaired antibody responses in diabetes mellitus', Dr Olayinka Osuolale (Elizade University) on 'Leishmaniasis in patients attending a medical health center in the rural community of Ilara-Mokin, Ondo State, Nigeria', Asst Prof Vijay Kumar Prajapati (Central University of Rajasthan) on 'Evaluation of immunogenicity of the engineered multi-epitope subunit vaccine against visceral leishmaniasis infection', Dr Lok Bahadur Shrestha (BPKIHS) on 'Emerging Clinical Microbiologist looking for research opportunity in TB Vaccinology', Dr Suwarti (EOCRU) on 'Intranasal boosting regimen of Human Parainfluenza Virus Type 2-Ag85B vaccines induces superior CD4 immune response against Mycobacterium tuberculosis', Dr Julen Tomás Cortázar (University College Dublin) on 'Elucidating the mechanisms of protection of the Burkholderia pseudomallei antigen, BpOmpW', and Chathika Weersuriya (LSHTM) rounded the session off with 'Mathematical modelling of the epidemiological impact, cost-effectiveness and budget impact of novel tuberculosis vaccines on multi-drug resistant tuberculosis'. This energetic session was followed by a group photo, and a drinks reception with posters, before everyone headed into the Conference Dinner.
The second day of the conference on Thursday 3 October saw the start of our second session on Biomarkers, chaired by Prof Helen Fletcher (LSHTM). Our first Keynote Speaker, Dr January Weiner (Berlin Institute of Health) spoke about 'Biomarkers in tuberculosis and individual variability of the host'. January was followed by Dr Fatoumatta Darboe (MRC The Gambia) discussing 'Predicting and diagnosing TB disease in HIV-infected persons' and Dr Eduardo Milton Ramos Sanchez (USP) on 'Altered expression of microRNAs in infections with cutaneous and visceral strains of Leishmania'. After a break, our second Keynote Speaker for this session, Prof Stephen Gordon (University College Dublin) discussed the 'One Health route to exploring virulence in the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex', with Hannah Painter following on 'Development of an ex vivo mycobacterial inhibition assay using murine lung cells for tuberculosis vaccine testing' and Asst Prof Tufária Mussa (Eduardo Mondlane University) on 'The fusion protein Ag85B-HBHA (FP1) elicits IFN-γ, IL-2 and TNF-α in conventional T cells of Tuberculosis contacts with latent infection over time'.
After lunch, we moved into our final session 'Latest vaccine developments', chaired by Prof Helen McShane (University of Oxford). Keynote Speaker Assoc Prof Paul Brett kicked us off discussing 'Development of multivalent subunit vaccines for immunization against melioidosis', followed by Dr Sophie Rhodes (LSHTM) on 'Dose finding for new vaccines: the role of immunostimulation/immunodynamic modelling' and Dr Deepa Paliwal (University of Reading) on 'Progress in a reverse vaccinology approach for bovine TB'. After coffee, our final Keynote Speaker, Prof Mark Hatherill (University of Cape Town) spoke about 'Major advances and next steps for tuberculosis vaccine development', after which Dr Justice Boakye-Appiah discussed 'Mycolactone based vaccine against Buruli ulcer disease', and then Asst Prof Rebecca Harris (LSHTM) gave our last talk on 'Potential impact of new tuberculosis vaccines in China, South Africa and India and implications for vaccine development'. VALIDATE Director Prof Helen McShane gave a brief wrap-up, and the prizes - congratulations to Dr Panjaporn Chaichana for winning Best ECR Poster and Dr Sophie Rhodes for winning Best ECR Talk at the Conference - and then we were done! Four great days of thoroughly interesting talks, and fantastic networking opportunities were over.
A huge thank you to all our VALIDATE members and delegates who were all so engaged and made the events the great days that they were. We are delighted that so many of you have fed back how interesting and useful you found our 2019 events - now we just have to get to planning a similarly great run of events for 2020 for you all!
You can see video clips from the events on our Youtube Channel, and all photos taken can be seen here using the password val300919.
Slides from the presentations given at the events (where the speaker was happy to share them) can be accessed via our Document Library on Weblearn (VALIDATE members only) - if you have issues accessing WebLearn send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.