Edinburgh Infectious Diseases
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Research projects on rabies and sleeping sickness win 2024 Ker Memorial Prize

The 2024 Ker Memorial Prize in Infectious Diseases has been jointly awarded to Dr Andy Gibson (Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies) and Dr Guy Oldrieve (School of Biological Sciences).

Image of Andy Gibson and Guy Oldrieve
Many congratulations to 2024 Ker Memorial Prize winners Guy Oldrieve (L) and Andy Gibson (R).

The Ker Memorial Prize is award each year for the best PhD thesis submitted at the University of Edinburgh in memory of two eminent Edinburgh physicians, Dr Claude and Frank Ker.

Ker family support for infectious disease research in Edinburgh

As always the nominees for the Ker Memorial Prize were outstanding.  On this occasion the judges felt that although of very different types, the quality of research carried out by the both Andy and Guy, merited the co-award of this year's prize.

In addition, the judges awarded a Commendation of Merit to Ruby White, from Amy Buck's  lab (School of Biological Sciences), for her work on Modulation of host intestinal epithelium by gastrointestinal nematode secreted extracellular vesicles.

As part of their prize both Guy and Andy will present their work at the Edinburgh Infectious Diseases annual symposium on Wednesday 19 June 2024.

13th Edinburgh Infectious Diseases Annual Symposium

About the prize winners

Dr Andy Gibson:  Development and evaluation of methods to controlrabies in Goa State, India

Supervisors:  Richard Mellanby, Stella Mazeri, Ian Handel, Mark Bronsvoort; Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies

About the work:  Rabies is unique in the world of infectious diseases for the degree of suffering it inflicts, both to the individuals infected and their families who bear witness to inevitable death once signs appear.

In his thesis, Andy used data-driven approaches to support the development of effective methods for rabies control in Goa State, India over a ten-year period through a collaboration between the Government of Goa and WVS. Andy led the creation of a mobile phone app which enabled project managers to coordinate the movement of vaccination teams and efficiently gather operational data about dogs vaccinated, children educated, and suspect rabid dogs investigated. His analysis of these data informed the iterative refinement of dog vaccination methods which resulted in the elimination of rabies across most regions by 2019. Goa was India’s first state to pass legislation to become a ‘Rabies Controlled Area’ in 2021.

Cost-effectiveness analysis supported the widespread adoption of this One Health approach, however operational constraints to scaling the vaccination method drove the exploration of novel approaches involving oral rabies vaccines (ORVs). His analysis of two pilot studies identified the potential for ORVs to advance rabies control at a national scale.

About Andy: Andy now leads the research and technology strategy at Worldwide Veterinary Service (WVS), a UK-based international veterinary charity working to drive change in animal welfare and One Health.

He graduated in veterinary medicine from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in London. After a time working in clinical practice Andy completed the RVC Small Animal Internship before volunteering on the 2013 launch of the Mission Rabies project in India. He went on to work in Goa and other project sites, supporting the development of dog rabies surveillance and vaccination methods and became the project lead for developing a smartphone app to monitor and direct field activities.

Andy began his part-time PhD at the University of Edinburgh in 2016 alongside his role at WVS, focusing on understanding the methods of rabies control in Goa, India, where he was deeply involved in project management and strategy.

Dr Guy Oldrieve:  Developmental incompetence in selected and naturally occurring Trypanosoma isolates

Supervisor:  Keith Matthews; School of Biological Sciences
About the work:  Trypanosoma brucei is the causative agent of sleeping sickness in humans, and of nagana, dourine and surra in animals. In its mammalian host, T. brucei undergoes development to transmissible stumpy forms that favour uptake by the tsetse fly vector.  However, subspecies of T. brucei have simplified their lifecycle by escaping dependence on tsetse, allowing an expanded geographical range from tsetse endemic regions to Asia, South America, and Europe. Concomitantly, stumpy formation is lost, and the subspecies are described as monomorphic. 
Through genomic analysis of distinct field isolates, Guy identified and functionally confirmed, molecular changes that accompany the loss of the stumpy transmission stage.
Further, by laboratory selection, he identified reversible steps in the initial development of monomorphism. This identifies a trajectory of events that simplify the trypanosome life cycle that impacts disease spread, vector control strategies, geographical range and virulence.
About Guy:  Guy obtained his integrated master's degree in Biology from Cardiff University, before moving to Edinburgh as part of the Wellcome Trust Hosts, Pathogens and Global Health programme. He is currently a postdoctoral research associate in the Matthews lab focused on trypanosome developmental biology and immune evasion. 

Ker Memorial Lecture

We are also delighted that Dr Iruka Okeke from the Univeristy of Ibadan, Nigeria will present the Ker Memorial Lecture at this year's Edinburgh Infectious Diseases symposium.

Dr Okeke will talk about Insights from the genomes of enteric bacteria isolated in Nigeria.

About Iruka

Related links

Mission Rabies

Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies

Matthews Lab

School of Biological Sciences