Genetic factors in host responses to childhood vaccinations
Project Leader: Alex Mentzer, Clinical DPhil Student
Alex is starting a DPhil in Biomedical and Clinical Sciences supervised by Adrian Hill and Georg Holländer at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics. During the two years which he has spent at Oxford in preparation for his DPhil he has been working in a project which aims to identify the genetic factors associated with the varied host response to common childhood vaccination.
Using modern genetic approaches, such as genome-wide association studies (GWAS), he is studying the genetic profiles of children recruited in studies throughout Africa and trying to understand how these may influence response to vaccinations such as those against tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, hepatitis B and measles.
He has helped set up a multi-national consortium of researchers from countries including Uganda, South Africa, Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Ecuador and Bangladesh. The consortium is entitled VaccGene and aims to, in close collaboration with Manj Sandhu at the Sanger institute, conduct the largest study ever undertaken in this field.
Alex’s results are already demonstrating that genetic factors involved in lymphocyte differentiation and development are involved in the variable immune response to these vaccines. He plans to understand how we can use these findings to develop novel adjuvantation approaches.
Alex hopes that, in continued collaboration with researchers in Oxford and as part of the VaccGene consortium, his findings will aid the development of novel vaccination strategies that will require less frequent dosing and provide better global efficacy against infectious disease.