Dr Alansana Darboe, Post-doc working with the Human Immunology Project Consortium (HIPC) team in Vaccine & Immunity Theme (VIT) has been awarded a 2-year immunizing pregnant women and infants network (IMPRINT) Post-doctoral Career Development Fellowship worth £200 000 to investigate the interactions between maternal antibody transmitted via the placenta during pregnancy and neonatal innate immune cells.
The fellowship is part of the ongoing large-scale observational (HIPC) study of neonatal vaccine responses and will use cord blood samples collected as part of the protocol. Dr Darboe will develop a prototype of assays in the lab that will allow examination of the effects of maternal antibody on the natural defense cells in newborn. Initially, he will use the tetanus vaccine as a vaccination model, given that this vaccine is already routinely given to pregnant women in The Gambia. Hopefully, this model can then serve to assess the potential impact of other maternal vaccines on neonatal innate cellular responses, such as pertussis or future vaccines.
In addition, Dr Darboe will examine whether “training” of specific cells generated from cord blood (monocytes) by Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) another vaccine used in newborn can induce changes in gene expression. This knowledge will help us to estimate if there is potential for such changes to have clinical impact on longer term antigen-specific immunity in infants or not.
The fellowship is embedded in an existing strong research partnership between the three HIPC research sponsors in The Gambia led by Professor Beate Kampmann MRC Unit the Gambia at LSHTM, Professor Tobias Kollmann University of British Columbia, Canada and Professor Arnaud Marchant Université Libré de Bruxelles, Belgium. This partnership will provide Dr Darboe with the opportunity to develop an independent complimentary aspect of the research around one of the key challenges identified by the IMPRINT network.
IMPRINT is an MRC Global Challenge Research network that aims to advance the understanding of fundamental scientific questions about vaccination in pregnancy and the neonatal period and its impact on immunity early in life (www.imprint-network.co.uk).