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Dr Carly May Bliss

Dr Carly May Bliss

Wellcome Trust ISSF Fellow

School of Medicine

Email
blissc@cardiff.ac.uk
Campuses
Henry Wellcome Building for Biomedical Research, University Hospital of Wales, Heath Park, Cardiff, CF14 4XN
Users
Available for postgraduate supervision

Overview

My research interests include vaccine development and the identification of protective immune subsets, with a focus on universal vaccine development against influenza virus. Universal vaccines aim to protect against multiple viral strains and subtypes, without the need for annual vaccine re-formulation and re-administration. This is achieved through induction of broadly reactive adaptive immune responses targeting conserved viral proteins. My current research uses novel adenoviral vectors as vaccines to direct potent immune responses against conserved regions of influenza virus. I believe the core concepts from the universal influenza vaccine field can be effectively applied to that of coronavirus vaccine development, and is a key focus of mine going forward.

Biography

I completed a BA in Biological Sciences at the University of Oxford, and subsequently worked as a Research Assistant at the University’s Jenner Institute where I performed extensive immunological testing of human peripheral blood T cells as part of clinical vaccine trials against malaria. This included multiple overseas placements at MRC laboratories in The Gambia and Wellcome Trust laboratories in Kenya, in addition to rapid response clinical testing of Ebola virus vaccines during the 2014 outbreak.

My PhD focussed on immune responses to vaccines against malaria, specifically using poxviral and chimpanzee adenoviral vectored vaccines. My research explored the immune responses induced by vaccination in both adult and paediatric cohorts. This included the development of a novel in vitro assay to measure antigen-specific CD8+ T cell killing of malaria-infected hepatocytes, and a fully validated whole blood intracellular cytokine staining assay for roll-out at clinical vaccine testing field sites in sub-Saharan Africa.  

A shift of focus as a Postdoctoral Research Scientist at the Nuffied Department of Experimental Medicine (University of Oxford) led me to evaluate adaptive cellular responses following clinical administration of candidate vaccines against hepatitis C virus, with particular focus on T cell phenotype and proliferation, in addition to pre-clinical animal model development. A Postdoctoral Research Fellow position at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital (New York) furthered my interest in viral pathogens, with particular focus on influenza A virus. My pre-clinical research explored the use of human adenovirus type 5 (Ad5)-based vaccine vectors to induce broadly reactive cellular and humoral immune responses against the influenza haemagglutinin as an approach for universal influenza virus vaccine development. My research extended to the evaluation of human T cell responses following “chimeric inactivated” and “chimeric live-attenuated” universal influenza vaccine candidates undergoing Phase I clinical testing.   

At Cardiff University, I am funded by a Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund (ISSF) Fellowship for pre-clinical universal vaccine development against influenza virus. My research aims to induce broadly cross-reactive humoral and cellular immune responses against conserved regions of the influenza viral haemagglutinin. Specifically I utilise rare species adenoviral vectors with low seroprevalence and Ad5-based vector pseudotypes, which aim to circumvent pre-existing adenovirus immunity from highly seroprevalent adenoviruses such as Ad1, Ad2, Ad5, whilst inducing broadly protective adaptive immune responses against multiple influenza virus subtypes with a single vaccination regimen. My interests include the identification of functional immune subsets within the lung mucosa that can be induced by vaccination and which underpin protection from infection and disease. Through my ISSF fellowship, I work closely with many research groups within the School of Medicine, particularly those from the Division of Cancer and Genetics, for adenoviral vector development and engineering, and from the Division of Infection and Immunity, for vaccine evaluation and immunological phenotyping.

Awards and Honours

  • Awarded 2020 Best ECR Oral Presentation at Cardiff University Division of Infection & Immunity Annual Meeting.
  • Elected in 2020 as an ECR on the board of the British Society for Gene and Cell Therapy.
  • Awarded 2020 Centre of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance (CEIRS) Training Grant.
  • Awarded 2019 Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI) Vaccines Travel Grant.
  • Awarded 2019 MDPI Antibodies Excellent Young Researcher Certificate.
  • Awarded 2014-2019 British Society for Immunology International Travel Grants.
  • Awarded 2016 scholarship for Molecular Approaches to Malaria conference (Lorne, Australia)
  • Awarded 2013 scholarship for Ceppellini Advanced School of Immunology meeting (Naples, Italy).
  • Regular manuscript reviewer for a range of peer-reviewed journals.

Professional Memberships                

  • Member of British Society for Gene and Cell Therapy, including the role as ECR Board member.
  • Member of Microbiology Society                                                                         
  • Member of British Society for Immunology   

Publications

2021

2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

Teaching

  • Plan and supervise undergraduate student projects.
  • Plan and supervise PhD student projects.
  • Provide PhD student feedback as part of ECR-PhD student pairing programme.

Adenoviral Vector Development

Adenoviruses (Ad) can be used as vaccine vectors, whereby a transgene is selected based on a specific antigen from a pathogen of interest. Following inoculation with the Ad vectored vaccine, the transgene is expressed at a high level, leading to the generation of potent immune responses against the encoded antigen. Pre-existing immunity to human Ad can hinder this type of vaccine platform, and is a therefore a key consideration when developing viral vectored vaccines. My research explores the use of rare species Ads and viral pseudotypes to induce potent immune response against the vaccine antigen whilst circumventing pre-existing immunity against the vaccine vector. Rare species Ads have low seroprevalence in the human population, while viral pseudotypes aim to avoid pre-existing immunity via modifications to immunodominent capsid proteins. These two approaches underpin my novel vaccine research into respiratory pathogens. 

Universal Influenza Virus Vaccines

Universal influenza virus vaccines aim to protect against multiple viral strains and subtypes through the induction of broadly reactive immune responses. This can be achieved by targeting conserved influenza virus proteins, with the aim of generating influenza virus vaccines that do not require annual re-formulation and re-administration. My research targets the conserved portion of the influenza viral haemagglutinin (HA), termed the HA stalk domain, using novel Ad vectored vaccine approaches. This strategy negates the issues associated with egg-based influenza vaccine production and the uncertainty of matching influenza vaccine strains to the seasonal circulating strains. 

My Research Goals

  1. Generating rare species Ad vectors and Ad vector pseudotypes encoding conserved influenza virus antigens, to induce broad immune responses against multiple influenza virus subtypes, whilst circumventing pre-existing Ad-based immunity. 
  2. Evaluating mucosal and systemic immune responses against conserved influenza antigens, through quantification and phenotyping of antibody and T cell responses in lung tissue, bronchoalveolar lavage fluid, peripheral blood and the spleen, and elucidating their functional profile and mechanisms of action.
  3. Mapping immune responses down to specific T cell epitopes and antibody binding sites to evaluate the level of cross-reactivity, and determining protective capacity against different influenza virus subtypes using both in vivo and ex vivo experimentation.
  4. Applying the universal vaccine approach to the development of coronavirus vaccines.  

Supervision

I currently supervise:

  • Ms Caitlin Dop – Cardiff University Undergraduate Professional Training Year (PTY) student; Designing broadly reactive vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 using adenoviral vectors.

I currently co-supervise:

  • Ms Rebecca Wallace – PhD student funded by Cancer Research UK; Development of precision virotherapies capable of evading anti-vector immunity.

I have previously co-supervised:

  • Ms Hannah Sharpe – PhD rotation student funded by a Wellcome Trust studentship in Infection, Immunology and Translational Medicine (IITM); Characterising the T cell response of rats infected with a rat hepacivirus.

I am interesting in supervising students in the areas of:

  • Vaccine development.
  • Vaccine immunology.
  • Immunity against viral respiratory pathogens. 

Engagement

I am currently an Early Career Representative on the Board of the British Society for Gene and Cell Therapy (BSGCT) and participate actively in the society’s work, particularly that of Early Career Development and Collaboration with the organisation of the 2020/2021 BSGCT Early Career Researcher (ECR) seminar series. I am also part of the Network for Researcher Development (NeRD) Organising Committee, which organises ECR events and aims to improve the research experiences of ECRs within the Division of Cancer and Genetics at Cardiff University.