I have a keen interest in viruses and in particular how they replicate and assemble into new particles in their hosts. My MSc at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, focussed on developing novel plant-produced vaccine candidates and assessing their immunogenicity, particularly against veterinary viruses. This work sparked further interest in understanding virus-host interaction, in particular in the host immune system and defence against viral infections.
In January 2020 I joined the group of Maria Forlenza as a PhD candidate to gain a deeper understanding in the intricate immune system of vertebrates (particularly cyprinid fish) and how they defend against pathogens. My project is a collaboration between Wageningen University, The Wageningen Bioveterinary Research Institute (WBVR, Prof. Jeroen Kortekaas) and the French Agricultural Institute INRA (Dr. Christelle Langevin). My project specifically focuses on developing RNA-based vaccines and recombinant viral vectors as an alternative vaccine platform suitable for (warm-water) fish. Recombinant live attenuated viruses may be cumbersome to produce but often give excellent protection. RNA-based vaccines represent the next generation of vaccines and we are only just starting to assess their efficacy in fish. Combining and expanding our knowledge on vaccine development and host immune defences, the aim is to develop a universal delivery system for mucosal vaccination of warm water fish and to address knowledge gaps in our understanding of mucosal immune responses.
My direct supervisor is Dr. Maria Forlenza