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Tom Belcher

Thomas Belcher

Post-doctoral Scientist

I studied Cellular and Molecular Medicine as an undergraduate at the University of Bristol with a special interest in microbiology. Following this I moved to the University of Bath to undertake a PhD project, which was focused on the in vitro metabolism of Bordetella pertussis, the causative agent of whooping cough. The project had input from GSK Vaccines, Rixensart, Belgium, where I carried out a three-month placement. The overall goal was to further understand the interplay between virulence and metabolism, which is controlled by a two-component system, in the wider context of culturing for vaccine production.

After I obtained my PhD I took up my first post-doctoral position at the Pasteur Institute in Lille, France, where I worked for 3 years looking at beneficial heterologous effects of live vaccines in mice. Specifically, I was studying the off-target effects of a live attenuated vaccine for B. pertussis in mice models of influenza, pneumococcal pneumonia and asthma, among others. Following this I worked for 6 months on a project designing and constructing candidate next-generation vaccines for COVID-19, using attenuated bacteria as expression vectors for SARS-CoV-2 antigens.

In 2021, I joined the Gonococcal Vaccine Project at the Jenner Institute, which aims to develop a candidate vaccine against Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the causative agent of gonorrhoea, based on outer membrane vesicles. My project will carry out a programme of studies on the human immune response to natural infection with N. gonorrhoeae, which is not believed to lead to protective immunity from reinfection in many cases. Part of the aims will be to establish correlates of protection, which we will use to guide development of our candidate vaccine.