New Jenner Investigator: Prof Philip Bejon

Prof Philip Bejon

My links with the Jenner go back to my PhD, supervised by Adrian Hill and Kevin Marsh to undertake a series of Phase I and Phase II trials of viral vector candidate malaria vaccines based at the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme in Kilifi, Kenya.

I optimized the dosing and regimen for  immunogenicity and monitored safety in a series of Phase I trials in healthy and HIV positive adults, then children, and then undertook a Phase IIb trial in which I recruited 400 children. The vaccine was not protective, probably due to reduced immunogenicity which was associated with prior exposure to malaria. I led further Phase II trials of GSK’s candidate malaria vaccine “RTS,S” and was a member of the Malaria Vectored Vaccine Consortium, funded to test viral vectored malaria vaccines in several sites in Africa including Kilifi.

I was appointed Director of the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme in September 2014. One of our major scientific themes is vaccinology including Phase I, II and III trials and post-licensing evaluations, bringing together expertise in molecular and cellular immunology, community  engagement, clinical trials and detailed demographic surveillance of a large population. We conduct immuno-epidemiological studies to determine the basis of naturally acquired immunity to malaria.

In collaboration with the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the Jenner Institute in Oxford we are developing chip-based methods for screening several hundred full-length antigens simultaneously and combine these assessments with experimental studies using controlled human malaria infection with measurements of in vivo growth rates and large multi-centre immuno-epidemiological studies with partners in 13 African sites.

Post-licensing effectiveness studies at population-level offer an opportunity to evaluate herd immunity (which augments the effectiveness of vaccination) and serotype or strain replacement (which may offset early benefits). Our epidemiological surveillance is uniquely well-suited to examine these effects, having demographic surveillance of 280,000 residents, with fully linked prospective monitoring of clinic vaccinations, phenotyping of cases and mortality monitoring, and a legacy of 25 years of data and samples to contextualize long-term trends and variations in genotype. We are currently evaluating the effectiveness of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, the HiB vaccine and rotavirus vaccination.