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Pramila Rijal

Postdoctoral Scientist

Influenza and Ebola

I have worked on antibody response to Influenza and Ebola viruses for almost seven years. 

I finished my DPhil under the supervision of Alain Townsend at the University of Oxford in 2017. During my DPhil project, we found that how the focused immune response in some humans can promote the antigenic drift of influenza virus. We studied 157 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) from one vaccinated individual, wherein the majority of mAbs recognised a single epitope on the haemagglutinin. 

During my DPhil, along with colleagues and collaborators in Taiwan and China, we also studied neutralisation breadth and structural-epitope of H7N9 antibodies isolated from acute human infections in Taiwan and China. We found that elderly elicited H7 HA-specific antibodies, whereas young donors majorly elicited cross-reactive antibodies carrying a higher number of somatic mutations. H7N9 virus poses a pandemic threat. 

Recently, we studied the human monoclonal antibodies obtained from people vaccinated with an experimental Ebola vaccine. The combination of well-characterised antibodies was found to treat Ebola virus-infected guinea pigs. This collaborative project with Simon Draper's group, Jenner Institute and the Antibody Discovery Unit, UCB Pharma showed that therapeutic antibodies can be obtained from human clinical trials, which have implications for dealing with emerging infections.

Having a good resource of anti-Ebola antibodies has grown our interest and has enabled us to study the mechanism of virus neutralisation by these antibodies. We are collaborating with Erica Ollmann Saphire at the La Jolla Institute and Yoshi Kawaoka, Wisconsin University to explore this project. 

My current research interests also include human antibodies to influenza neuraminidases (NA). Neuraminidase is an important antigen and the antibodies to NA can be protective. However, the field lacks in-depth research on the breadth of NA response and the vulnerable sites on NA protein. This project is funded by the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences - Oxford Institute.

The strength of our lab lies in collaborations. We collaborate with researchers all around the world. Kuan-Ying (Arthur) Huang at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Taiwan and John McCauley and Rod Daniels at the Crick Worldwide Influenza  Centre are our main collaborators on influenza studies. We also collaborate with George Gao, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Bei Bei Wang, Beijing Ditan Hospital and Tao Dong, WIMM.

There are other projects in the beginning phase with local collaborators in Oxford. 

Besides my own projects, I have offered help to other researchers interested in monoclonal antibody development and other techniques within my expertise. We have also provided antibody  - protein and plasmid reagents to several groups. I am also involved in the development of influenza vaccine (S-FLU, a potent single cycle live attenuated vaccine) developed by Alain Townsend.