Koala retrovirus PhD Scholarship

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Koala retrovirus PhD Scholarship


Applications are invited for this opportunity to be received in the Office of Research by 4pm, Monday 29 February.

Koalas are affected by two major infectious disease pathogens, Chlamydia and the koala retrovirus (KoRV). KoRV is very common in Australia’s wild and captive koalas and is thought to potentially contribute to chlamydial disease. A vaccine for both agents is considered to be the best strategy. This project aims to eventually develop a vaccine against KoRV.

The long term survival of the koala is under serious threat. Apart from the human-induced factors of habitat destruction, road accidents and domestic dogs, two infectious diseases pose major threats to koala survival. While Chlamydia is the “most visible” of these infectious threats, koala retrovirus (KoRV) is equally important.

KoRV infects the majority (over 95%) of Australia’s koalas, with only some Victorian and South Australian koalas being KoRV negative.

KoRV has been strongly linked to life threatening diseases such as lymphoma and leukemia. In addition to losses in wild koalas, some zoos have very high koala losses (50%) due to these diseases.

While quarantine and antiretroviral drug treatment are possible control measures, they are impractical, leaving vaccination as the only realistic option.

This PhD project will aim to develop a KoRV vaccine by:

  1. Molecular epidemiological study of key KoRV parameters across several wild and captive koala populations
  2. Immune profiling of KoRV-infected koalas to determine if KoRV-infected koalas are immunosuppressed and to establish baseline immune levels against which we will evaluate our vaccine response
  3. Development and trialing of a novel KoRV/adjuvant vaccine in groups of KoRV negative and positive koalas

To complete this project, the USC Chlamydia Research program is looking for a highly motivated, hard-working PhD student to join an established team of academics, postdoctoral fellows and other PhD students working on research projects on Chlamydia.

Preference will be given to applicants who can demonstrate that they already have some experience with a range of relevant laboratory skills, such as, (a) PCR – standard, quantitative, real time, (b) immunological assays (ELISA, Western blotting, cytokine assays), (c) genomics and transcriptomics, and/or (d) DNA sequencing and analysis.

As this is an industry-based project, applicants who are also able to display strong communication skills will also be given preference.

Contact: Professor Peter Timms (ptimms@usc.edu.au)

To be eligible for this scholarship, applicants must:  
  • hold a Bachelor degree with First Class honours, or have an equivalent level of attainment via previous study, work experience, research publications, and other research experience;
  • not hold an equivalent HDR qualification to that being applied for;
  • Recipients must maintain satisfactory progress as a full-time PhD candidate at the University of the Sunshine Coast.
Selection criteria:
  • Undergraduate achievement; and
  • Research alignment; and
  • Publications
  • Most recent or relevant degree
Please see additional criteria for the preferred candidate in the project summary.
Eligible programs:
Number available:
Stipend commensurate with the Australian Postgraduate Award, Tuition Fees and Overseas Health Cover for the standard duration of the program.
How to apply for a Postgraduate Research Scholarship
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