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:

This Postdoctoral Scientist position is a key role 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

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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.

An important objective of the Hub is to improve our understanding of antibody Fc and Fc-receptor functions in these livestock species. To complement studies focused on defining antibody isotype/subclass binding to Fc-receptors, this role will be to develop assay systems to define the Fc-mediated functions of each of the IgG subclasses, IgA and IgM. This will involve establishing for each of the three species standardised in vitro assays to measure antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC), antibody directed cellular phagocytosis (ADCP) and antibody mediated complement dependent cytotoxicity (CDC). These assays in combination with more standard assays such as neutralising assays, liquid phase blocking ELISA and ELISpot, will comprise a powerful suite of analytical tools to accurately predict and measure the function of antibodies in a range of host species.

The Postdoctoral Scientist will work as part of a large multidisciplinary team to advance the aims of the Pirbright Livestock Antibody Hub. The postholder will utilise a range of immunological techniques including the use of flow cytometry and other cellular approaches to help development a suite of assays to examine the Fc-mediated function of individual antibody (sub)classes for the target species. The post-holder will report to the PRRS Immunology Group Leader and will interact other members of the Pirbright Livestock Antibody Hub on a regular basis.

Main duties and responsibility

Responsible for conducting research to improve our understanding of antibody Fc and Fc-receptor functions in these livestock species (cattle, pigs, chicken), which will include:

  • Developing in vitro assays to measure antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC), antibody directed cellular phagocytosis (ADCP) and antibody mediated complement dependent cytotoxicity (CDC) for IgG subclasses, IgA and IgM.
  • Contributing to animal studies to evaluate the protective properties of individual antibodies.
  • Supporting studies to determine the affinity of antibody binding to Fc receptors.

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/hub members, students and visitors

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.

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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

  • 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
  • Evidence of networking skills with the ability to build effective collaborative relationships
  • Experience in immunology including flow cytometry, analysis of cellular and humoral responses, ELISpot, ELISA, ADCC and ADCP
  • Evidence of excellent oral and written communication skills
  • Evidence of experience of change-management, influencing and strategic vision


  • Evidence of experience and vision to carry out scientific research in a multi-disciplinary environment
  • Experience in biological containment practices and in working under biosecure conditions
  • Experience in working with large animals
  • Experience in cellular biology

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 vouchers and a subsidised childcare allowance
  • Free onsite parking

Please apply via recruiter’s website.