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PhD-Project „Irradiation of zoonotic Apicomplexa with low energy electrons for the development of vaccine candidates”

The aim of this project is the attenuation of the zoonotic parasites Cryptosporidium parvum and Toxoplasma gondii by treating them with low energy electron irradiation (LEEI). After irradiation, the pathogens will be characterized and evaluated for their suitability as vaccines both in vitro and in vivo. To generate the basis for the further preclinical development of a LEEI-attenuated vaccine an automatized irradiation process will be implemented.

C. parvum and T. gondii both cause zoonotic diseases and are relevant for humans and animals. Cryptosporidiosis is life threatening for malnourished children and immunocompromised people and one of the main reasons for worldwide diarrhea-associated deaths. A prominent trait of T. gondii is its prevalence and low host specificity. Infections with this parasite are mostly asymptomatic but can be dangerous for immunosuppressed patients or during pregnancy

There are no vaccines available against both pathogens, hence the demand for innovative approaches for their development is high. This is a challenging task since vaccines against a parasite have to induce protective immune responses against several stages of the pathogen´s life cycle. Attenuation of the parasites reduces their reproductive capacity and virulence but still enables them to complete most of their life cycles.

Treatment with ionizing radiation is an effective method to attenuate pathogens. The genetic material of irradiated organisms is damaged but the cells retain enough activity for subclinical infections. This project focuses on LEEI. Compared to other types of ionizing radiation (gamma radiation or X-rays) LEEI does not require complex shielding constructions for safe use and can be applied in reproducible doses and with extremely high dose rates. Therefore, irradiation times are very short and protein damage caused by the ionizing environment is only minimal.


March,1st  2020 - February, 28th 2023


PD Dr. Sebastian Ulbert
Leiter Abteilung für Immunologie

Fraunhofer Institut für Zell Therapie und Immunologie

Perlickstr. 1, 04103 Leipzig

phone: +49-(0)341-35536 2106

mobile: +49-(0)176 10426197

Fax: +49-(0)341-35536 82106