Connor Hayward

Defining picornaviral replication complexes by molecular and state-of-the-art imaging- Novel strategies for disease control

About me

My undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences at the Royal Veterinary College gave me an alternative look on molecular biology through the use of animal-orientated examples in place of the traditionally human-led biology topics. Initially I viewed this as a bit quirky but towards the end of my degree I realised the unique position it could put me in. I subsequently continued my educational journey at Imperial College London studying more human-orientated virology. But soon I found myself gripped by veterinary issues once more, with an opportunity to carry out six months of research working with foot-and-mouth virus (FMDV), and I pounced upon it! Thanks to this I was able to work in the Tuthill group in high-containment at the UK’s only SAPO4 facility, the Pirbright Institute, in sunny Surrey. During this placement I spotted an advert for a PhD position to work with FMDV in the Stonehouse group at the University of Leeds and once again jumped at the chance. I was delighted be successful in applying and have enjoyed every moment so far working with Nic and her group to better understand this important virus.

My project

FMDV is a virus that affects cloven-hooved animals and can cause significant economic impact, due to its capability to seriously derail the farming industry. The high transmissibility of the virus means FMDV can only be handled in special facilities. A replicon of FMDV has therefore been developed to negate the risks associated with ‘live’ virus and this is what I use as a model for my research. In particular I’m interested in using replicon FMDV to study how the virus genome replicates, specifically where and with which cellular proteins, in order to identify potential therapeutic targets. For this we will develop correlative light electron microscopy (CLEM) imaging techniques determine association of host and viral RNA and proteins with viral replication complexes. Coupling this with molecular techniques and mutational studies we will characterise these complexes answering questions about how FMDV replicates its genome.


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