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Prestigious fellowship to investigate Influenza A virus

Dr Elly Gaunt has been awarded a Sir Henry Dale Fellowship of over a million pounds to investigate Influenza A virus.

Dr Elly Gaunt in the lab.

The genetic sequence of all animals is made up of four building blocks, A, T, C and G, which are assembled millions of times to create the genome. An unexplained phenomenon is that, in vertebrates (animals with a backbone), a C is followed by a G (referred to as 'CpG') much less frequently than you would predict if each base occurred randomly.

Intriguingly, this CpG suppression is also seen in the genomes of RNA viruses which infect vertebrates. It is widely believed that viruses have evolved this 'mimicry' to avoid detection by a cellular sensor, which would trigger an immune response allowing the body to protect itself against the virus.

However when Dr Elly Gaunt from The Roslin Institute analysed where CpGs occur within the genome of influenza A virus, she found that CpG is actually much more frequent in certain regions which are edited by the cell using a method called splicing.

Elly has been awarded over a million pounds to investigate how and why these differences occur. She will identify the cellular factor(s) that recognise CpG in the virus and will use Influenza A virus for these investigations. This research will elucidate novel approaches to vaccine development.

The project will be funded through the Sir Henry Dale Fellowship scheme, which provides support for postdoctoral researchers who aim to become independent scientists leading their own groups. The scheme is a partnership between the Royal Society and the Wellcome Trust.

I am absolutely delighted and still somewhat bewildered to be a recipient of this Fellowship. I have received a huge amount of support along the way from a diverse range of people. My thank you email to those that directly helped my application was sent to 19 people and I am humbled that so many people were so willing to support me in this way. I am especially grateful to my boss, Professor Paul Digard for the astonishing amount of time, effort and patience he has put into supporting me through the application process, and also to our Director, Professor Eleanor Riley for facilitating the opportunity to apply.

Dr Elly GauntThe Roslin Institute

Elly will work in collaboration with Roslin scientists Professor Paul Digard and Dr Finn Grey, as well as Dr Alfredo Castello Palomares from the Department of Biochemistry of Oxford University.

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