Nastaran Sadat Savar (early stage researcher), Institut Pasteur d’Iran (IPI)

My Ph.D. thesis is focused on an alpha-viral-based Self-amplifying mRNA (SAM) vaccine platform against leishmaniasis. The main goals of my long-term secondment in IPP were to gain experience in working with RNA vectors, to formulate and test the designed vaccines. To achieve this I had the chance to work with Dr. Marco Vignuzzi and his great team at the Viral Populations and Pathogenesis (PVP) unit. Shortly after starting my secondment, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequently first lockdown happened. During the Paris confinement, while my project was on hold, I joined the COVID-19 taskforce in Pasteur Institute as I believed my experience in molecular/cellular biology and the learned skills in PVP could be of help. It was a great pleasure for me to be part of the international collaborations to test potential drugs for COVID-19 and I also learned different quantification techniques that in turn helped me with the subsequent experiments for my thesis.

After the confinement, my project in PVP resumed and we successfully transcribed and tested the vaccines. During the last two months of my secondment, I had the opportunity to work with the leishmania experts, in the Molecular Parasitology and Signaling Unit headed by Prof. Gerald Spaeth. We designed and ran a pilot study on pathogenic Leishmania major. The results of this study used for designing our future challenge study for the SAM based vaccines. Special thanks to Pascale Pescher for sharing her knowledge and her precious collaboration.

LeiSHield-MATI project gave me this opportunity to not only learn a lot of skills and finish my Ph.D. project but to work with amazing scientists and build my research network.