The Pirbright Institute

Postdoctoral Research Scientist

The Pirbright Institute

Surrey, United Kingdom

The Pirbright Institute

The Pirbright Institute delivers world-leading research to understand, predict, detect and respond to viral disease outbreaks. We study viruses of livestock that are endemic and exotic to the UK, including zoonotic viruses, by using the most advanced tools and technologies to understand host-pathogen interactions in animals and arthropod vectors. Our major strength in understanding the immune systems of livestock provides a platform to control current diseases and respond to emerging threats.

Our Institute is made up of a dynamic and vibrant community of staff covering a diverse set of chosen fields, backgrounds and experience. We all play a crucial role in furthering the Institute’s aspirations, advancing the frontiers of science and knowledge through our excellent scientific research, knowledge sharing and contribution; with a real focus in improving the world in which we live. Our outlook is always balanced by our strong sense of purpose, values and behaviours and an unwavering commitment to a ‘one Institute’ approach.

Organisation position and purpose:

This 4-year Postdoctoral Scientist position is one several available within the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded Pirbright Livestock Antibody Hub. This hub will exploit the recent advances in our understanding of B-cell responses to better understand the protective immune response in livestock and poultry. We will address the needs of the research community and bridge the requirements of the vaccine industry. Overall the hub will support rational vaccinology approaches, antibody-based treatment and prophylaxis as well as increasing the applicability of animals as models for human disease and treatment.

As part of this Hub, we will continue to develop specific Work Programs to enable antibody discovery, manipulation and testing in cattle, pigs and poultry. This will require the establishment of species and pathogen specific methods to interrogate antibody responses in parallel with in vivo studies in the natural host. We aim to share expertise and actively collaborate with other research centres and vaccine companies worldwide to act as a central Hub for antigen-specific antibody discovery and characterisation.

Pigs are a natural host for influenza A virus and provide an excellent model for final selection of vaccines or antibodies to be taken to human clinical trials. Pigs and humans are infected by the same subtypes of IAV and have the same distribution of sialic acid receptors in their respiratory tract. We have established a robust swine influenza challenge model, which enables us to study immunity to influenza and to test therapeutic monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) for human disease. The aim of this programme of work is to determine how best to deliver prophylactic and therapeutic mAbs and to uncover the mechanisms underlying their protective efficacy.

The Postdoctoral Scientist will work within the Mucosal Immunology group and work closely with a multidisciplinary team to advance the aims of the overall Pirbright Livestock Antibody Hub. The postholder will utilise a wide range of immunological and virological techniques such as FACS analysis, ELISPOT, microneutralisation, virus propagation, plaque assays and other cellular approaches to:

  1. exploit the pig as a large-animal model for influenza virus infection
  2. identify alternative mechanism of protection beyond virus neutralization
  3. help characterize the Fc receptor gene content and the understanding of the function of each Fc receptor in cattle, poultry and pigs
  4. help development a suite of assays to examine the function of individual antibodies (recombinant or native) for several species

The post-holder will report to the Head of the Mucosal Immunology group and will work with other members of the Pirbright Livestock Antibody Hub as required.

Main duties and responsibility

Responsible for conducting research into immunity and antibody therapeutics against influenza viruses:

  • Assist with conducting pig influenza studies
  • Preparation of virus challenge material and quantification of virus load in tissues (PCR and plaque assays)
  • Analysis of B and T cell responses after influenza infection and/or immunisation (T and B cell ELISpot, Flow cytometry, cell proliferation).
  • Determination of antigen specificity and function of mAbs (microneutralisation, ELISA, HAI, ADCC).
  • Contribute to developing of new techniques and methods
  • generate standardised in vitro assays to measure antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) and antibody directed cellular phagocytosis (ADCP)
  • develop in vivo assays to define the function of each all the IgG subclasses, IgA and IgM
  • study binding and affinity of each antibody subclass to that species Fc receptors, in several species

Responsible for working as part of an established team, which will include:

  • Communicating progress and data
  • Disseminate results through writing high quality peer-reviewed manuscripts and presenting at scientific meetings
  • Developing and maintaining documentation associated with the health, safety and biosecurity of the research to preserve a safe working environment.
  • Assist with lab management (ordering, looking after equipment, sample inventories)
  • Supervision and training of group members

Contribute to the overall research group:

  • Service on committees, steering groups and other meetings as appropriate
  • Take responsibility with others for the daily housekeeping of the laboratory
  • Take responsibility with others for ensuring that work in the laboratory is conducted safely and in accordance with local health and safety policies
  • Perform outreach duties


This job description is only an outline of the tasks, responsibilities and outcomes required of the role. The jobholder will carry out any other duties as may be reasonably required by his/her line manager. The job description and personal specification may be reviewed on an ongoing basis in accordance with the changing needs of the Human Resources department and The Pirbright Institute.

All employees shall actively participate in the Institute-wide quality assurance system in conjunction with the Institute’s Quality Manager. Employees are also expected to safeguard their own health and safety and security by following policies and all employees are responsible for the Health and Safety and security of staff under their management.

Personal behaviours

  • Intellectually engaged and results driven with a clear ability to time manage between multiple projects.
  • Excellent collaboration skills
  • Adaptability in adjusting to changing priorities
  • Attention to detail
  • Able to problem solve and be creative in generating a solution whilst also able to perform the same activity in a consistent manner
  • Ability to work independently as well as part of a team

Specific requirements


  • A PhD or equivalent in a relevant branch of biosciences
  • Significant relevant postdoctoral research experience
  • An excellent record of research productivity, commensurate to the applicant’s career
  • Experience in influenza virological techniques including virus propagation and quantification, microneutralisation and haemagglutination inhibition assays
  • Experience in cellular biology
  • Experience in immunology including flow cytometry, analysis of cellular and humoral responses, ELISPOT, proliferation assays, ELISA, ADCC and ADCP
  • Evidence of effective management of students, technicians or other team members
  • Evidence of building collaborative relationships
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills, including the ability to interact effectively with funding bodies, peer-review groups and government agencies
  • An ability to prioritise tasks effectively while under pressure
  • A willingness to work outside normal working hours and to undertake travel worldwide


  • Experience in biological containment practices and in working under biosecure conditions
  • Experience in working with large animals
  • Basic computer skills including use of Microsoft office packages, experience in data presentation and statistical analyses
  • Evidence of networking skills with the ability to build effective collaborative relationships
  • Evidence of experience and vision to carry out scientific research in a multi-disciplinary environment

What we offer

  • Generous Group Personal Pension Scheme and life cover (subject to age and earnings)
  • 25 days annual leave per annum, pro rata, plus 10.5 public and privilege days
  • Pirbright gym with subsidised membership
  • Pirbright social club
  • Pirbright Lifestyle Hub (employee discount site)
  • Cycle to work
  • Subsidised staff restaurant
  • Subsidised childcare allowance
  • Free onsite parking

Please apply via recruiter’s website.