Research Scientist: Molecular virology

Research Scientist: Molecular virology

The Pirbright Institute

Woking, 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 position is part of a multi-institution project led by The Pirbright Institute to develop genetic methods to reduce the spread of flaviviruses; key collaborators are University of Tartu, Estonia and University of Nottingham, UK. Flaviviruses include a range of important pathogens including dengue, Zika, yellow fever and West Nile viruses. This project builds in part on a successful ongoing collaboration including the same partners to engineer mosquitoes with reduced ability to transmit alphaviruses such as chikungunya virus.

Insect synthetic biologists are beginning to develop the technical ability to manipulate wild populations by introgressing into them synthetic genes and traits (gene introgression refers to the introduction and perhaps spread of a gene into a target population). There are a several potentially interesting candidate traits for such an approach, including reduced-vector-competence (reduced ability to transmit a pathogen, for example dengue or Zika viruses), or reduced-fitness (leading to suppression or elimination of the target population).

Dengue, Zika and other established or emerging arboviral diseases impose significant morbidity and mortality. In few cases are licensed drugs or vaccines available. However, the dependence of these viruses on specific mosquito species, combined with recent advances in mosquito synthetic biology, potentially provides new approaches. We will engineer the major vector mosquito Aedes aegypti to reduce its ability to transmit selected flaviviruses. A key aspect is to develop broad-spectrum methods that will inhibit spread of multiple viruses, and thereby provide a tool for control of yet-unknown emerging viruses in this family, as well as for known ones. We will focus on methods to kill cells on infection so that they are unable to support virus transmission. This approaches is inspired by natural anti-virus defence mechanisms and uses components and designs based on our strong collective track record in molecular virology and mosquito synthetic biology. We will pursue several technical approaches in parallel to mitigate the risk that one of these ambitious approaches may not fully achieve its design goals; to provide multiple independent means to interfere with virus transmission, which in combination would greatly reduce the possibility of virus escape mutants.

The post-holder will also be expected to contribute as required to the training and supervision of additional members of the Group, including junior research staff, technicians and students whether directly engaged in this specific project or on other projects in the Group, to project management, to reporting to the funding agency and other stakeholders and to help maintain and strengthen the Group’s collaborative links with other research groups both nationally and internationally.

Main duties and responsibility

The successful applicant’s work will focus on the development and analysis of new tools and strategies for the genetic control of pest insects. Duties and responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

Responsible for virology studies, which will include:
· Cell culture of mammalian and arthropod cell lines
· Transfection of mammalian and arthropod cell lines
· Propagation and maintenance of virus stocks
· In vitro analysis of virus infected and non-infected samples (e.g. cells, mosquitoes) using a wide range of techniques including: plaque assay, TCID50 and luciferase assays
· In vivo (vector-virus interaction) studies

Responsible for molecular biology, which will include:
· PCR analysis (including qPCR)
· Plasmid design and construction

Responsible for working as part of an established team, which will include:
· Communicating progress and data, including reporting progress to the
consortium and funding agency as required and preparing manuscripts for
· Co-ordination with other consortium members

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, energetic, intellectually engaged, results-oriented, time management skills, reliability under pressure, decision-making and problem-solving skills, ability to delegate, negotiation and conciliation skills, business planning skills

Specific requirements

· A bachelor’s or Master’s degree or equivalent in a relevant branch of biosciences
· Significant bench experience in a recognised R&D environment
· An excellent record of research productivity, relative to experience
· Experience of cell culture and aseptic techniques
· Enthusiasm for virology and/or insect research
· Evidence of good oral and written communication skills including the ability to communicate effectively within a team

· Experience of handing ACDP hazard group 2 viruses
· Experience of plasmid design and construction
· Evidence of networking skills with the ability to build effective collaborative relationships
· Capacity to travel within UK and overseas, with long hours and occasional overnight or longer stays

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

Salary: Band C; from £27,355 with higher remuneration considered depending on experience and qualifications

Please apply via recruiter’s website.