Susanne Hodgson (nee Sheehy)

Graduate Research Prize Winner 2015

Susanne Hodgson

After completing medical school at Cambridge and Oxford University, I began specialist clinical training in infectious diseases and microbiology. An interest in clinical research led me to join Adrian Hill and Simon Draper’s groups at the Jenner Institute (part of the Nuffield Department of Medicine) at Oxford University. Here I developed an interest in controlled human malaria infection(CHMI):  ‘challenge’ studies where healthy volunteers are infected with malaria in order to assess the efficacy of new malaria vaccines. I was fortune enough to work on numerous UK multi-site CHMI trials assessing the efficacy of viral-vectored malaria vaccines – I became one of a handful of individuals across the world who led CHMI trials conducted by mosquito-bite and injection of infected red blood cells of sporozoites. 

During this work, I was struck by the fact that modern CHMI trials had not been undertaken in Africa, largely due to a lack of access to appropriate entomology facilities. But the development of cryopreserved, un-attenuated sporozoites (the so-called PfSPZ Challenge) administered by needle and syringe made CHMI trials in malaria-endemic regions a practical possibility for the first time.

With funding from The Wellcome Trust, I led a clinical trial to optimise the infectivity of PfSPZ Challenge in UK adults. I then went on to help establish the first CHMI trial centre in Kenya, culminating in the first CHMI trial in Nairobi in Kenya. This trial included individuals with varying degrees of prior exposure to malaria and was the first to attempt to use the CHMI model to understand the dynamics and mechanisms of naturally acquired immunity to malaria. My work analysing the changes in gene expression of Kenyan volunteers post-CHMI showed evidence for the first time of a role for Type III interferons in the immune response to blood-stage malaria and generated other hypothesis to be investigated in future African CHMI trials. I found my time working at the Nuffield Department of Medicine challenging but extremely rewarding. I really enjoyed the varied and highly translational aspects of my work and the chance to train both as a clinical trialist and laboratory scientist. The highly collaborative and supportive nature of the Jenner Institute is truly special and it was a privilege to work with such capable and encouraging colleagues. Following the award of my DPhil I am returning to my clinical training post but hope to combine clinical work and research in the future.

Publications (selected)

Hodgson SH, Juma E, Salim A, Magiri C, Njenga D, Molyneux S, Njuguna P, Awuondo K, Lowe B, Billingsley PF, Osier F, Chilengi R, Hoffman SL, Draper SJ, Ogutu B & Marsh K. Lessons Learnt from the First Controlled Human Malaria Infection Study Conducted in Nairobi, Kenya. Malar J. 2015 Apr 28;14(1):182.

Hodgson SH, DouglasAD, Edwards NJ, Kimani D, EliasSC, Chang M, DazaG, Seilie AM, Magiri C, MuiaA, JumaEA, ColeAO, RamplingTW, AnagnostouNA, GilbertSC, HoffmanSL, DraperSJ, BejonP, OgutuB, MarshK, Hill AV, Murphy SC.Increased sensitivity of quantitative reverse-transcription PCR can improve prediction of clinical outcomes in sporozoite controlled human malaria infection studies. Malar J. 2015 Jan 28;14(1):33.

Hodgson SH, Juma EA, Magiri C, Kimani D, Njenga D,MuiaA, Salim A, Cole AO, Ogwang C, Awuondo K, Lowe B, Munene M, Billingsley PF, James ER, Gunasekera A, B. Sim KL, Njuguna P, Rampling T, Muthui M, Molyneux S, AltmanD, Macharia A, Williams TN, Bull PC,Hill AVS, Osier FH, Draper SJ, Bejon P, Hoffman SL,Ogutu B, Marsh K. Evaluating Controlled Human Malaria Infection in Kenyan adults with varying degrees of prior exposure to Plasmodium falciparum using sporozoites administered by needle and syringe. Front Microbiol. 2014 Dec 12;5:686. doi:

Sheehy SH, Douglas AD, Draper SJ. Challenges of Assessing the Efficacy of Asexual Blood-Stage Plasmodium falciparum Malaria Vaccines. Hum Vaccin Immunother. 2013 Jun 18;9(9).

Sheehy SH, Spencer AJ, Douglas AD, Sim BKL,Longley RJ, Edwards NJ, Poulton ID, Kimani D, Williams AR, Anagnostou NA, Roberts R, Kerridge S, VoyseyM, James ER, Billingsley PF, Gunasekera A, Lawrie AM, Hoffman SLand Hill AVS. Optimising Controlled Human Malaria Infection studies using cryopreserved P. falciparum Parasites administered by needle and syringe. PLoS One. 2013 Jun 18;8(6):e65960.