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Vinnycius Pereira Almeida

DPhil student

Research interest

CD8+ T cell therapy or adoptive T cell therapy (ATC) has revolutionised the treatment of liquid tumours, such as leukaemia and lymphoma. However, it has been limited in its ability to abrogate solid tumours, partly due to their complex network of cells and extracellular components. Therefore, combining ATC with other therapies may be necessary to achieve clinical success in solid tumours. A promising strategy is the combination of ATC with viral vector vaccines. It has been demonstrated that vaccination can boost antigen specific IFN-γ secreting CD8+ T cells, which are key in controlling malignant cells. I therefore aim to study ATC in combination with vaccination against solid tumours and investigate the underlying mechanisms leading to anti-tumour immunity.   

Background

I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology in Brazil at the Universidade Federal de Goiás. During this time, I received a scholarship to study at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the USA and develop a research project focused on chromosome instability at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (1). During my bachelor's degree, I also worked with Professor Simone Fonseca on the development of a Zika virus vaccine design by studying the virus’s structural and non-structural proteins in the search of T and B cell epitopes using immunoinformatics tools (2). In addition, I developed a subunit tuberculosis vaccine candidate with Professor Ana Paula Kipnis using a similar approach but focusing on Th1 epitopes (3). This vaccine has been evaluated in mice and has shown to be promising as a boost for BCG (only tuberculosis vaccine approved). 

Following this, I received an Erasmus Mundus scholarship to study for a master's degree as part of the LIVE programme (Leading International Vaccinology Education). During this time, I studied advanced immunology (Barcelona, Spain), infectious diseases, vaccine legislation (Antwerp, Belgium), cancer immunology, vaccines platforms and epidemiology (Lyon, France). For my Master’s thesis, I joined Professor Benoit Van den Eynde’s lab in the University of Oxford. Under the supervision of Dr Carol Leung, I studied how ChAdOx1 and MVA viral vector vaccines impact the innate immune response and promote T cell infiltration in the tumour microenvironment (4). My above experiences gave me abundant scope to realise my passion for the study of immunology in human disease, specifically tumour immunology. I was privileged to be awarded the NDM prize studentship to work with Professor Van den Eynde’s lab towards studying the combination of viral vectored vaccines with T cell therapy as an anti-cancer treatment.