Jessica T. Owugha

Ph.D research student

Jessica graduated with an M.Sc. in Molecular Biology of Infectious Diseases from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 2013. Prior to this, she studied Biochemistry at the University of Manchester, spending 11 months in a WHO reference laboratory for cases of bacterial meningitis across West Africa (PneumoWAR project). Based at the Medical Research Council Unit, The Gambia, Jessica worked within the vaccinology theme to genetically characterise Streptococcus pneumoniae isolates and investigate West African population structure.
Jessica was awarded an LSTM Ph.D studentship in October of 2013, and began her project within the LSTM’s Respiratory Group under primary supervision of Dr Daniela Ferreira and secondary supervision of Prof Stephen Gordon. Her project is run in collaboration with Dr Eliane Miyaji’s group of the Molecular Biotechnology Laboratory at Butantan Institute, São Paulo, Brasil.


Pneumonia is the biggest infectious cause of infant mortality worldwide. Existing vaccines targeting the primary bacterial aetiological agent S. pneumoniae call for improvement as they are limited in coverage and less protective against pneumonia than other pneumococcal infections. Colonisation with the bacterium is a pre-requisite for disease: The Liverpool-based Experimental Human Pneumococcal Carriage model (EHPC) provides an ethical measurement of vaccine efficacy where prevention of colonisation in response to vaccination can be investigated, and immune responses associated with protection from carriage ascertained.

The overall aim of Jessica’s research project is to identify regions of conserved pneumococcal virulence factors eliciting cellular and humoral immune responses associated with protection from colonisation. This may inform development of a pneumococcal vaccine conferring mucosally active serotype-independent protection.

Students supervised
Dr Henrik Thiemann (Radboud University, Netherlands). 2015. Investigating human protective responses to the pneumococcal vaccine candidate SP1690.

Positions and Responsibilities
LSTM Trustee, 2015 - date
• PGR student representative on Programmes Board, 2015 - 2016
• PGR student representative on Postgraduate Board of Studies, 2015 - 2016
• PGR student representative on Athena Swan Committee for Deanery of Clinical Sciences and International Health, 2015

Research Grants and Awards
• LSTM Ph.D studentship scheme 2013. £47,000. Project entitled: Human immune responses to the vaccine candidate pneumococcal surface protein A during experimental pneumococcal carriage.
• Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine Jean Clayton Fund 2014. £2,470. Funding for visit to Brasilian Institute to conduct functional antibody experiments.
• Best Oral Presentation for CS&IPH Deanery, LSTM PGR Conference 2016. Talk entitled: New protein vaccine against pneumococcal pneumonia: investigating cellular immune responses to the Pneumococcal surface protein A using Experimental Human Pneumococcal Carriage.