Felipe, his Wife Kate and PhD Project Towards a New Tuberculosis and Leprosy Vaccine
When Felipe was studying for his Bachelor Degree, I was his lecturer and tutor in various Biomedical Science units. During his final (Honours) year at a different Australian university, I was unofficially one of his two supervisors on a project to study a molecule of the immune system called CD1e. Felipe did not wish to work on any other project. This Honours research project had interesting experimental results relevant to the immune response against tuberculosis and leprosy.
Felipe has been happily married to his loving wife Kate since March 2014. This photo was taken after the wedding on the day itself. Kate fully supports Felipe to pursue his dream of doing a PhD by research. This will hopefully confirm his Honours findings and then allow him to develop a new vaccine in collaboration with an overseas lab, likely to be in USA. Felipe has family background in Brazil, where the initial research should take place. So far there is no official funding for this research and I am only privately involved.
The current vaccine (called BCG) against tuberculosis is not ideal, ranging from zero to 80% protectiveness. Tuberculosis causes over a million deaths per year worldwide and there are epidemics, with rising numbers of cases. The bacteria causing tuberculosis and leprosy are similar. Leprosy is associated with social stigma, just as with AIDS, perhaps more commonly in the past. Nobody knows why it is so difficult to eradicate leprosy from regions of the world, such as northeastern Brazil, even though treatment for it is cheap.
The body defends itself against organisms after it recognises them as potentially harmful. The recognition of this by the immune system is best studied for small proteins associated with organisms. However, fats with and without attached sugar molecules are important to recognise bacteria causing tuberculosis and leprosy. Such immune recognition is not as well understood. CD1e is involved and there is no vaccine available which specifically targets this type of immune response effectively. Hopefully, Felipe will find good evidence to justify developing a new type of vaccine against both tuberculosis and leprosy in a mouse experimental model for his PhD.