AFR funding and poster prize for PhD candidate Amy Parrish

2017 - 12 - 18

Amy Parrish, first-year doctoral candidate at LIH’s Department of Infection and Immunity, was selected to receive an AFR grant from the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) to conduct her PhD project in the field of microbiome research. She was also recently awarded with a prize for the best poster presentation at an international symposium on microbiome.

Amy Parrish is American and did her Bachelor studies in biology at the Chapman University in Orange, California. She then completed a Master’s degree in “Immunology of Infectious Diseases” at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom. Her Master’s training period was conducted at the Medical Research Council Gambia Unit, Republic of The Gambia, where she worked on the role of immune cells in tuberculosis infection.

In February 2017, she started her PhD studies under the supervision of Dr Mahesh Desai in the group “Eco-Immunology and Microbiome”. At the same time, she set up and submitted a proposal to the FNR for an AFR grant to be able to conduct her PhD project entitled “Dietary fiber-deprived gut microbiota in inflammatory bowel disease” with third-party funding. The positive funding decision was announced by FNR in September.

‘My project aims to elucidate the role of dietary fibre and the fibre-degrading gut microbiome, termed the “mucobiome”, in the pathogenesis of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). IBD is a chronic inflammatory disease of the digestive tract that is associated with a dysbiotic microbiota and an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer’, explains Amy. ‘Since this project is a continuation of the Personalised Medicine Consortium grant that our group obtained last year, Amy will play a key role in working on a project that involves microbiome research with both IBD patient cohorts and mouse models’, adds her supervisor Dr Desai. Prof Markus Ollert, Director of LIH’s Department of Infection and Immunity, comments: ‘I am very pleased that Amy received the AFR grant to conduct her PhD work in Dr Desai’s group on a very exciting and up-to-date research topic.’

Amy already had the opportunity to present results from the group with a poster presentation at an international meeting, the “New frontiers Symposium of Microbiome” held on 12th and 13th October in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. The symposium was attended by over 350 scientists, including several leaders in the research field from Europe and abroad. Amy’s poster was selected out of more than 30 posters from early-stage researchers for a prize offered by Hycult Biotech, one of the sponsors of the symposium. ‘It was a great experience to be able to represent my group at this international meeting and to discuss my project with students and speakers’, states Amy.

It is planned that Amy will spend part of her working time at the Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, in the laboratory of Prof Fiona Powrie, an expert in research related to gut microbiota and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. To further ensure an excellent training environment and scientific exchange, Amy’s PhD project was associated with the NextImmune PhD research and training programme coordinated by LIH’s Department of Infection and Immunity and supported by the FNR PRIDE funding scheme, allowing her to benefit from the scientific training activities organised within the programme.