The EIMID-IAPP training programme is part of the European Initiative for basic research in Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (EIMID), created in 2003 by scientists of five European centres of excellence (the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, the CMMI in London, the Institut Pasteur in Paris, the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm; and the vaccine company Novartis V&D in Siena). The EIMID initiative brings together scientists from each of the institutes and promotes collaborations and scientific interactions.
EIMID-IAPP aims at implementing the Industry-Academia cooperation through an integrated young staff researchers exchange programme between the industrial partner and the four academic institutions. The global goal of the collaborative research and development project is on Novel Therapeutic Approaches against Infectious Diseases, with a particular emphasis on bacterial infections affecting mucosal surface (gut, stomach, lung), and for the development novel vaccines. The scientific workplan is divided into two areas: (i) discovering key antigens that are essential for infection; and (ii) identifying key bacterial genes essential for survival/growth/colonisation/virulence expression in in vivo conditions, the products of which would become targets for new families of vaccines to be discovered in the context of the initiative.
The project involves eight secondments of researchers, seven from the industrial partner to the four academic partners and one from an academic partner to the industrial partner. In addition, each partner has recruited one (or two in the MPIIB case) researcher to the program.
The projects included:
1. A study of gene regulation in Shigella in order to understand the mechanisms that govern survival and virulence gene expression in the lower intestine, in particular the influence of anaerobiosis and oxidative stress. Several proteins that control the transport of proteins to the bacterial surface have been shown to be regulated when oxygen levels are low. Some of these are likely to be important for survival in the oxygen poor environment of the gut and hence may be potential vaccine candidates.
2. Studies on the interaction of Shigella with host immune cells that have shown that the pathogen is capable of interfering with an appropriate immune response. This in part explains why Shigella is able to evade elimination by the host immune system.
3. Studies on the regulation of expression of a virulence factor of Neisseria meningitidis that is an important component of a novel vaccine against meningitis. This vaccine has recently been approved by the European Medicines Evaluation Agency and it was important to understand whether the antigen is expressed during disease and how it is regulated. In addition, the structure and regulation of adhesive pili that are important for bacterial colonization were studied.
4. Studies on the filamentous structures on the surface of Streptococcus pneumoniae that are involved in the adhesion of this pathogen to the cells of the respiratory mucosa. It has been shown that these structures also interfere with the action of cells of the host innate immune system.
5. Studies on the effect of infection of the stomach by Helicobacter pilori on the cells of the gastric mucosa that have documented several changes in the genes expressed after infection. Some of these changes may be involved in the pathogens ability to cause gastric cancer.
These studies have led to insights into how mucosal pathogens cause disease. A better understanding of the disease process and the interaction with the host immune system will lead to the design of new or better vaccines capable of preventing infection and/or disease. Furthermore, the close interactions between the academic and industry laboratories have led to more collaborations that will strengthen the field of microbiology in Europe.