Research News

26 Jan 2016

Postdoc position available in the Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit, Bangkok

Postdoctoral position in host-pathogen cell biology based in Bangkok,Thailand

The group of Dr. Salje is looking for an enthusiastic and ambitious cell biologist to join their team. They have a fully funded postdoctoral position available for 3 years, to lead an exciting new project on the host-pathogen biology of the neglected human pathogen Orientia tsutsugamushi.

Project summary: Orientia tsutsugamushi is an important but neglected bacterial pathogen that is endemic in large parts of Asia and that causes the human disease scrub typhus. This bacterium is in the Rickettsiaceae family, a fascinating group of obligate intracellular bacteria that are thought to be related to the precursors of modern mitochondria. Many details about the intracellular life cycle of this pathogen remain obscure, and this project will use a combination of high- throughout systems biology, cell biology and biochemistry approaches to study early stages of bacteria attachment and entry into eukaryotic host cells.

Qualification: Applicants should have a strong background in cell biology and molecular biology. Experience in infection biology would be an advantage but is not essential. Candidates should have an outstanding track record from their undergraduate and PhD studies, and this should be reflected in their publication record.

Institution information: This project will be primarily based in the group of Dr. Salje at the Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU), but will be a close collaboration with the groups of Dr. Sampattavanich and Dr.Jirawatnotai at the Siriraj Laboratory for Systems Pharmacology. Facilities include a modern and well-equipped BSL3 laboratory (MORU) and brand new high-throughput screening facilities (Siriraj). The research will be performed in Bangkok, Thailand, but it is expected that there will be opportunities for travel and collaborations at the University of Oxford, UK and Harvard Medical School, USA in addition to attendance at international conferences.


How to apply: Please send your CV, letter of intent and the names and addresses of three references to

18 Jan 2016

Publication: promising therapeutic target to reduce Influenza A viruses infection

On January 8, 2016, Chris Mok - principal investigator at HKU-Pasteur Research Pole - and co-workers published a study in the American Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology: "Targeting host calpain proteases decreases influenza A virus infection". This research was a collaboration led by Mustapha Si-Tahar (Research Centre for Respiratory Diseases, Inserm, Université de Tours) and conducted between Institut Pasteur Paris, Université Paris 6, Inserm (French National Institute of Health and Medical Research), Hong Kong University and HKU-Pasteur Research Pole.

The development of new strategies aiming at reducing the severity of Influenza A viruses is still a major public health challenge today. Vaccines and antiviral drugs are available, yet treatment of influenza faces limitations. Vaccines have reduced immunogenicity and efficacy in high-risk populations (elderly and immunocompromized individuals), the constant antigenic drift requires annual updating of the vaccine, and antiviral drugs do not interfere with immunopathology. Thus, looking for innovative therapies targeting host cellular molecules and not only viral factors can broaden and improve the efficiency of the therapeutic arsenal of influenza.

Such molecules could include the calpains, ubiquitous calcium-dependent proteases. This study provides new insight into the role of this protein family in influenza A viruses pathogenesis and shows that targeting calpains-dependent signaling pathways with calpain inhibitors has a protective effect in influenza A viruses infection, reduces viral replication, leukocyte infiltration and expression of pro-inflammatory mediators in bronchial epithelial cells. Regarding the treatment of influenza-induced acute pneumonia, this novel approach targeting calpains could then offer a new therapeutic option.

"Hyperactivation of the immune system observed in patients is considered as one of the mechanisms of the pathogenicity of avian influenza virus (H5N1) infection. The discovery of using calpain inhibitor, a potent inflammation inhibitor, could pave the way to a new therapeutic strategy for the treatment of H5N1 disease" sumarizes Chris Mok.