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CMMID Inaugural Annual Lecture: Modelling Infectious Disease Dynamics for Global Health

Sunetra Gupta
Using multi-locus models of pathogen evolution to design vaccines.

 

The CMMID Annual Lecture invites a leader in the mathematical modelling of infectious diseases to share their perspective on the field. The inaugural speaker is Professor Sunetra Gupta from the University of Oxford, who will be presenting her pioneering work on the use of mathematical modelling to identify novel vaccine targets—in particular, opening up the possibility of designing a "universal" vaccine against H1 influenza, which has the potential to dramatically change the design of flu vaccines. A reception will follow the lecture.

 

Speaker

Sunetra Gupta is Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology at the University of Oxford with an interest in infectious disease agents that are responsible for malaria, HIV, influenza and as well as range of bacterial pathogens.  She is a graduate of Princeton University and has a PhD from the University of London.  She has been awarded the Scientific Medal of the Zoological Society of London and the Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award for her scientific research.

 

Abstract

Current conceptual frameworks for antigenically diverse pathogens either ignore or dismiss the existence of protective epitopes of limited variability, with most efforts to make “universal” vaccines being focused on artificially trying to establish potent responses to conserved epitopes.  This is based on the dogma that all epitopes under strong immune selection are inevitably highly variable. Professor Gupta will present a body of theoretical work on the evolution and maintenance of antigenic diversity (collectively known as Strain Theory) which suggests, by contrast, that the dynamics of antigenically diverse pathogens is driven by naturally acquired immunity against epitopes of limited variability, thereby opening up the possibility of making “universal” vaccines providing broad coverage without sacrificing immunogenicity.  Using this approach, Professor Gupta and her research team have identified and characterised a naturally protective epitope of limited variability in the head region of haemagglutinin (HA) of the H1 subtype of influenza A; by targeting this epitope through prime-boost vaccination, they propose to develop a universal vaccine against H1 influenza with the potential to extend to other subtypes.

 

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