Mintern Group - PhD projects

The Mintern Lab is currently recruiting PhD students for the following projects:

Project Title: Designing effective vaccines to fight infection and tumours.

Vaccination currently represents the most effective strategy for eliminating infectious disease. While many vaccines are in use worldwide, for several pathogens our current vaccines fail with ensuing uncontrolled disease. This is the case for HIV, malaria and tuberculosis resulting in disease and devastation worldwide. Vaccines also have the potential to prevent and/or treat cancer, however this is currently not a clinical reality. Therefore, vaccine design must be advanced, and to do so, we require a more comprehensive understanding of the cell biology involved.

A key question in vaccine biology is how are the proteins involved in this response trafficked to and from specialised immune cell compartments. This miniproject will investigate the consequence of targeting specific components of the molecular machinery that participate in immune cell protein trafficking.

Project Title: Eating oneself to promote immunity.

Autophagy is a critical cellular pathway with important implications for human disease. Autophagy involves trafficking of cytoplasmic content to lysosomal compartments where it is degraded. Initially described as a process induced only in nutrient-deprived cells, autophagy is now known to occur constitutively in many cell types, including dendritic cells (DC). This project will investigate how autophagy impacts DC function. This is important as autophagy represents a viable pathway to target to improve vaccine efficiency.

Project Title. Exploiting nanoparticles as vaccines.

Incorporating drugs inside nanoparticles (NPs) (Fig. 1) is a promising approach to treat a range of diseases, from HIV to cancer. Encapsulating a drug inside a nanoparticle has a number of advantages over the conventional delivery of naked therapeutics, particularly when delivering delicate therapeutic cargos such as peptides or siRNA. 1) The NP can protect the drug from degradation by the body, ensuring the therapeutic is delivered in an active form. 2) By preventing premature release of the drug, unintentional side effects can be limited. 3) Multiple drugs can be delivered together (such as an antigen and an adjuvant), maximizing the therapeutic response. 4) NPs functionalized with targeted molecules such as antibodies (Abs) can target the specific cells that require the therapeutic. Here, we will examine the potential of nanoparticles as carriers that enable effective vaccination. We will investigate how different nanoparticle formulations can be used to elicit immunity to infection and tumours.

Key Methodologies used by the Mintern Lab: CRISPR/Cas9 deletion of genes, flow cytometry, next generation sequencing, gel electrophorhesis and western blotting, microscopy, antigen presentation assays, in vivo models of immunity.

Contact: jmintern [at] (Justine Mintern) to arrange an appointment