“Research on anti-tick vaccines: novel strategies to prevent Lyme borreliosis”

The global incidence of Lyme borreliosis, a tick-borne disease, is increasing and has been predicted to further rise in the future, posing a substantial medical and economic burden. Despite the societal demand and the proven cost-effectiveness of vaccination, there is currently no human Lyme vaccine. An alternative innovative approach to prevent Lyme borreliosis is targeting the vector, rather than the pathogen, by an anti-tick vaccine. The rationale behind this approach stems from the phenomenon known as ‘tick immunity’. After repeated tick exposure, tick immune animals’ direct humoral immune responses against exposed tick antigens, impairing tick feeding and conferring protection against tick-borne pathogens. Based on epidemiological studies, anecdotal evidence, and preliminary data, we hypothesize that humans can also develop tick immunity after repeated tick challenges. Moreover, we have recently identified feeding-induced tick salivary proteins that are instrumental to tick feeding and pathogen transmission. We put forward that characterization of the unknown functions of these feeding-induced tick proteins, and studying the immune responses elicited by tick proteins in tick immune humans, will reveal candidates for an anti-tick vaccine to prevent Lyme borreliosis. As such, the key objectives are to: 1) set up a unique human tick-challenge model to identify novel tick antigens involved in human tick immunity, and 2) determine the biological functions of these novel, and my recently identified, tick proteins. Subsequently, I will use this knowledge to 3) investigate and develop a multivalent anti-tick vaccine to prevent Lyme borreliosis.

The PhD student and the technician, along with a post-doctoral researcher will be involved in a cutting-edge project to determine the biological functions of the newly identified as well as already existing tick salivary gland proteins with regards to host defense mechanisms and pathogen transmission. By implementing this knowledge, a multivalent anti-tick vaccine will be designed for protection against Lyme borreliosis. We are looking for highly motivated and pro-active candidates with a strong interest in vector-host-pathogen interactions with a focus on infectious diseases and vaccine research. A strong background and technical expertise in immunology, molecular and infection biology is highly preferred.

Amsterdam UMC, location AMC, houses the university hospital and the medical faculty of the University of Amsterdam, as well as several research institutes. Infectious Diseases represents one of the major research topics at the AMC, integrated in a multidisciplinary fashion at the Amsterdam Infection & Immunity Institute (AI&II). This research will take place at the Center for Experimental and Molecular Medicine (CEMM). The mission of CEMM is to perform high quality translational research, bridging fundamental research with preclinical and clinical investigations in the field of Oncology, Infectious Diseases, and Blood Coagulation & Inflammation (i.e., the research groups housed in CEMM). It is the ambition of CEMM to facilitate translational science in the broadest of terms, maintaining strong ties with clinical departments and providing an optimal infrastructure and multidisciplinary environment for the scientific flourish of our research groups. The number one goal is to produce high quality, translational and impactful research.

Both the candidates will be part of the Lyme borreliosis research group headed by Prof. Dr. Joppe W.R. Hovius. The Lyme team is a dynamic young and ambitious group within CEMM with multiple PhD students, post-docs, technicians, physicians, and a variable number of graduate students.

More info: Abi Abhijeet