Since January 2013, Carmen joined the CBI group, appointed for 4 years as PhD on the TargetFish FP7-EU project (see other part of this website) that focuses on the development of vaccines for the six major farmed fish species in Europe, including common carp. She will work with Maria Forlenza and Geert Wiegertjes on the development of oral vaccines for carp against Spring Viremia of Carp Virus (SVCV) and Koi Herpes Virus (KHV) and will investigate the role of B and T cells during vaccination.
Development of vaccines for aquaculture has been hampered by the lack of tools required to unravel the immune responses and underlying mechanisms during infection and vaccination of fish. Furthermore, for many viruses (including KHV) the antigens necessary to produce an efficient vaccine are yet to be identified.
In this project we will produce the tools (e.g. T-cell specific monoclonal antibodies) necessary to investigate T- and B-cell responses during vaccination and infection. This knowledge will further be applied by testing newly designed vaccines against SVCV and KHV. Focus in this project will be on the design of DNA vaccines given orally, thereby minimizing vaccination-induced stress and allowing large-scale application. To prevent digestive hydrolysis while passing through the digestive tract and ensure proper uptake of the antigen, vaccines will be encapsulated. In our search for efficient vaccines against KHV and SVCV several antigen expression systems as well as delivery (encapsulation) methods will be tested.
Zebrafish will be used as an initial model to establish an effective oral vaccination strategy and to screen multiple antigen expression and delivery methods.