The Pirbright Institute

Postdoctoral 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:

The Molecular Virology Group has expertise in bovine and porcine immunology, molecular virology and cell biology. The main focus of the Group is the study of viruses that are exotic to the UK.

The post holder will join the Molecular Virology Group under the supervision of Julian Seago (Group Leader), as part of the research and development team at The Pirbright Institute. The employee will be expected to interact fully with other members of the research group, providing both advice and support.

Main duties and responsibility

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a global economic burden to the farming industry. The current FMD vaccines are inactivated preparations of whole foot-and-mouth disease virus that have been produced using immortalised cell lines. FMD is endemic in many developing regions of Asia, Africa and South America; smallholders are particularly affected by FMD and losses in livestock productivity increases poverty. At present there is a lack of suitable FMD vaccines for East Africa, highlighting a need to develop new FMD vaccines with improved quality that are better matched to East African strains.

The aim of this Bill and Melinda Gates funded project is to develop a quadrivalent foot-and-mouth (FMD) vaccine for immunisation of ruminants in East Africa against foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) using traditional and infectious-copy vaccine approaches. The project will be carried out at The Pirbright Institute (TPI) using the state-of-the-art high containment facilities and will facilitate knowledge transfer of FMD virus infectious copy technology, vaccine production, quality assurance, cell lines and manufacturer’s tests to Yebio Bioengineering Co., Ltd as a potential commercial partner.

The project objectives are:

  • To compare the production, storage, serology and levels of protection elicited by quadrivalent FMD vaccines generated from recombinant or corresponding wild type seed stocks.
  • To facilitate complete knowledge transfer of relevant vaccine technologies developed at TPI.
  • To incorporate GMP to a compatible standard to that used during the development of commercial FMD vaccines by major vaccine manufacturers.

Vaccine production activities:

  • Biosecurity training
  • Reverse genetics, PCR analysis and sequencing
  • Virus production, purification, characterisation and inactivation
  • Vaccine production, quality assurance, serological analysis and efficacy assessment.
  • Quality assurance and characterisation of cell lines.
  • Detailed planning, co-ordination, monitoring and record keeping of activities

Knowledge transfer activities:

  • Provision of training and technical support
  • Data reporting, collation and presentation

Contribute to the Molecular Virology group:

  • Publish peer reviewed manuscripts
  • Attend group meetings and assist with routine laboratory tasks

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 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 specification

Enthusiastic, intellectually engaged, good time management, reliability under pressure, good problem solving skills, collaborative, diplomatic, results driven, meticulous

Specific requirements


  • A PhD or equivalent in a relevant branch of biosciences
  • Experience of working in a laboratory environment with a strong track record in both viral and molecular research
  • Significant experience of cell culture and aseptic techniques including in vitro analysis
  • An excellent track-record of research productivity, relative to experience
  • Evidence of excellent oral and written communication skills, including the ability to communicate effectively


  • Applicants are particularly encouraged to apply that have experience working with FMDV and/or FMDV vaccines
  • Evidence of working independently and as a team
  • Molecular biology experience (PCR, qPCR,plasmid design, construction and analysis)

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
  • Childcare allowance
  • Free onsite parking

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