Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were unable to meet in person, so our 2021 Annual Meeting took place online, across three days: 15 September, 14 October, and 16 November 2021. Despite being online, we were able to provide members with a chance to hear about the research VALIDATE has supported over the previous five years. In total, over 100 members attended across the three sessions, and we had members attend from 32 countries (23 of which were LMICs).
As well as talks about VALIDATE-funded programs, we have contributions from British diplomats from three countries, including a serving Ambassador. After two or three project talks, members would get to interact in a Q&A session.
Day 1 – 15 September 2021
Day One was chaired by Professor Mitali Chatterjee, a VALIDATE Investigator from IPGMER in India. We timed the day so that members in South East Asia and Australasia could easily attend. Around 80 attendees from 19 countries, including Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Cameroon, China, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Switzerland, The Gambia, Uganda, and the UK took part.
“There was a wide range of talks from pump-prime grant projects…the Virtual format worked well with wide international participation”
The day opened with a talk from Prof Helen McShane - VALIDATE Network Director followed by Dr Himangi Bhardawaj MBE, from the British Council in India, who talked about the Newton Fund India. VALIDATE Network Manager Samantha Vermaak provided members with an update about the last two years of VALIDATE and explained some of our future plans.
We then began our first talks from our Pump Priming recipients with Ms Aparna Dravid (Manipal Academy of Higher Education, India) on ‘Characterizing the cellular immunity and metabolic response to Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Burkholderia pseudomallei in Indian patients for vaccine design’ and Dr Elena Stylianou (University of Oxford, UK) talking about ‘Developing a mouse model of diabetes to evaluate vaccines for TB and melioidosis’.
After a break, Dr Patpong Rongkard (Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit, Thailand) talked about the project ‘Vaccines to target people with diabetes: characterizing the pathways of immune response to M. tuberculosis and B. pseudomallei in people with diabetes compared to non-diabetics’ and Dr Rachel Tanner (University of Oxford, UK) talked about her fellowship ‘Characterizing the BCG-induced antibody response to inform the design of improved vaccines against M.tuberculosis, M.leprae, and M.bovis’.
Samantha Vermaak then hosted the VALIDATE ECR Open Forum, where Early Career Researchers were able to openly discuss some of their challenges and provide advice to their fellow members.
Day 2 – 14 October 2021
VALIDATE Co-Network Director Professor Samantha Sampson from Stellenbosch University in South Africa chaired Day Two. It was timed for members in Europe and Africa with over 50 attendees from 21 countries: Argentina, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Ghana, India, Ireland, Japan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Portugal, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Sweden, Thailand, Uganda, UK, USA, and Vietnam.
Prof Sampson welcomed members and introduced Mr Anthony Phillipson from the UK High Commission in South Africa who discussed the importance of diplomacy for global science.
Dr Emilie Karafillakis (LSHTM, UK) then provided an update for the Vaccine Confidence Project followed by Dr Gabriele Pollara (UCL, UK) who talked about ‘T cell receptor sequencing to identify correlates of protection in human tuberculosis vaccine studies’. Dr Matthew Rogers (LSHTM, UK) closed the first session talking about ‘Modelling the impact of a transmission-blocking vaccine against leishmaniasis on sand fly vectorial capacity’.
After a break, Dr Simon Waddell (University of Sussex) talked about ‘Innovative tools to measure mycobacterial antigen expression in tissue’ and then chair Prof Samantha Sampson (Stellenbosch University, South Africa) talked about her project ‘An ex vivo model for understanding the impact of vaccination on Mycobacterial persister populations’.
The final pump priming session featured Dr Mohamed Osman (University of York, UK) who discussed ‘Identification of Leishmania donovani and Mycobacterium tuberculosis-derived proteins on the surface of infected macrophages that are associated with ADCC induction’ and Prof Bernardo Villarreal-Ramos (Aberystwyth University, UK) who talked about ‘Natural variation of the bovine lymph node microenvironment and its possible effect on BCG immunogenicity’.
Finally, Samantha Vermaak hosted another ECR Open Forum.
Day 3 - 16 November 2021
The third and final day of the VALIDATE Annual Meeting 2021 took place on 16 November 2021 and was chaired by VALIDATE Network Investigator Dr Maria Adelaida Gomez, CIDEIM, Colombia. The day was timed for members in the Americas with over 70 attendees from 22 countries: Argentina, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Ghana, India, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Portugal, Serbia, South Africa, The Gambia, Uganda, UK, and the USA.
Dr Gomez welcomed everyone and then introduced Mr Colin Martin-Reynolds CMG, the British Ambassador to Colombia. The ambassador talked about his work facilitating exchanges between Colombian and British Scientists. We then heard from more Pump Priming recipients starting with Dr Lisa Stockdale (University of Oxford) on ‘Cytomegalovirus as a risk factor for TB and leishmaniasis’, Dr Julen Tomás Cortázar (University College Dublin, Ireland) on ‘Elucidating the T-cell epitopes and T-cells responses of two B.pseudomallei vaccine antigens’ and Dr Iman Satti (University of Oxford, UK) on ‘Investigating the BCG-induced Natural Killer (NK) cell response in cattle and humans'.
After the Q&A and break, Titular Prof Francisco Javier Sánchez-García (Instituto Politécnico Nacional, Mexico) discussed ‘Metabolic reprogramming of skin microenvironment for improved BCG vaccine efficacy’ followed by Affiliate Prof Rhea Coler (Seattle Children's Research Institute, USA) discussing ‘Development of an RNA-based vaccine Mycobacterium tuberculosis’ and Dr Isadora Lima, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (FIOCRUZ, Brazil) on ‘The effect of BCG vaccination on immune responses against visceral leishmaniasis in a natural (canine) model of infection’.
Then, we heard from the final round of Pump Priming speakers, starting with Dr Steven Smith (Brunel University, UK) who talked about 'How do functional and metabolic characteristics of trained monocytes affect their anti-bacterial activity?' followed by Dr Rajko Reljic (SGUL, UK) who discussed 'Overcoming innate immune tolerance in the respiratory tract for optimal vaccine design', and finally, Dr Panjaporn Chaichana (Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine) talked about 'Establishment of a functional assay panel to evaluate the role of antibodies in defense against melioidosis and tuberculosis'.