Division of Infection and Pathway Medicine

Collaborative PhD Studentship open for applications

Applications are open for a fully funded collaborative project between The Pirbright Institute, The University of Edinburgh and the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut.

Project Title: Functional characterisation of foot-and-mouth virus replication in mammalian cell lines 

Anticipated Start Date:  January 2018                     Duration:  3.5 years full-time

Closing Date:  27th October 2017


  • This studentship is open to science graduates (with, or who anticipate obtaining, at least a 2.1 or equivalent, in a relevant biological subject in their undergraduate degree, or a Masters degree - subject to university regulations). Other first degrees, e.g. veterinary science, will be considered. You should be looking for a challenging, interdisciplinary research training environment and have an active interest in the control of infectious diseases.
  • This is a fully-funded studentship open to UK and EU students.
  • Students without English as a first language must also provide evidence that they meet the English language requirement, e.g. with an IELTS score of 7.0 and no less than 6.5 in any of the subsections.


Principal supervisors: Julian Seago, The Pirbright Institute; Jürgen Haas, University of Edinburgh; Michael  Eschbaumer, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut; Martin Beer, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut

Co-Supervisor:  Toby Tuthill, The Pirbright Institute

Project Details:

Foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) is a highly infectious viral pathogen that causes foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in cloven-hoofed animals. FMD has a major economic impact globally and is a considerable threat to food security.

FMDV is a non-enveloped, single-stranded positive-sense RNA virus in the genus Aphthovirus of the family Picornaviridae. FMDV has a small genome and therefore relies on multifunctional viral proteins and cellular factors to replicate. In vitro studies have shown that a range of mammalian cell lines from different species are permissible to FMDV infection and replication. However, many of the interactions between host and viral proteins that facilitate this replication remain unidentified. Similarly, the antiviral responses triggered following infection of these cell lines, and their effects on viral replication, is yet to be determined.

This project will help to fill these knowledge gaps by 1) determining the ability of FMDV to replicate in different mammalian cell lines, 2) characterising the innate IFN response to infection and 3) identifying the host proteins required for viral replication. The project will provide fundamental knowledge of FMDV replication that will be of major benefit to the picornavirus research community and strengthen collaborative links. The work could also inform the rational development of novel control strategies and enhance vaccine production.

Aside from the presence of a suitable receptor for infection, a number of factors influence the ability and efficiency of FMDV replication in mammalian cells. These include the effectiveness of the host’s innate immune responses and the ability of the virus to evade these, as well as the capacity of the virus to efficiently orchestrate the re-arrangement of cellular membranes to carry out viral replication and utilisation of the host’s translation machinery.

The aims of this project are to identify host factors which regulate FMDV replication in mammalian cell lines:

  • Are there differences in the efficiency of FMDV replication between mammalian cell types?
  • Does the host IFN response differ between these cell types and does this significantly affect viral replication in vitro?
  • Which host proteins are critical for viral replication in vitro and are these conserved across host cell types?
  • Do differences exist (for the above questions) between FMDV serotypes and subtypes?

References for Background Reading:

  1. Grubman and Baxt. Foot-and-mouth disease. BClin Microbiol Rev. 2004 Apr;17(2):465-93.
  2. Rodríguez and Sáiz. Molecular Mechanisms of Foot-and-Mouth Disease Virus Targeting the Host Antiviral Response. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2017 Jun 13;7:252.
  3. Zhang et al. A replication-competent foot-and-mouth disease virus expressing a luciferase reporter. J Virol Methods. 2017 Sep;247:38-44.

Registration, Training and Funding:

This is a fully funded collaborative project between The Pirbright Institute, The University of Edinburgh and the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (FLI).  The student will be based at The Pirbright Institute, UK, and registered with the University of Edinburgh, with visits to meet their university supervisor and undertake training as required. In addition the student will be expected to spend a period of 6-12 months at FLI, Germany. Eligible students will receive a minimum annual stipend of £14,553 and university registration fees will be paid. A full range of research and transferrable skills training will be made available to the student as appropriate.

How to apply:

Your application will only be considered if we have received the following documents:

  • Application Form
  • CV
  • Two references sent directly by your referees

Please email to studentship@pirbright.ac.uk

More information on how to apply

Further information regarding the partner institutions can be found at: