University of Lübeck serves as the German Partner for CORVOS – A European doctorate programme focusing on the role of complement in opportunistic infectious diseases

The European Union will fund the doctorate programme CORVOS for the next 4 years with 4.1 million Euros for by the Horizon 2020 programme. CORVOS stands for COmplement Regulation and Variations in Opportunistic infectionS. The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network (ITN) of 10 European universities, 3 biomedical companies, 2 research institutes and 3 hospitals comprises an interdisciplinary doctoral programme including cross-sectoral research secondments (stays abroad) and training in transferable skills. The research objective of CORVOS is to contribute to a better understanding of the mechanisms by which the complement system contributes to the immune system's battle with the most important opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis, malaria, HIV and fungal diseases. Further, in addition, CORVOS is intended to strengthen European collaborations. 

At the University of Lübeck two of the 15 PhD students will be trained by Profs. Jörg Köhl, Institute for Systemic Inflammation Research, and Stefan Niemann, Molecular and Experimental Mycobacteriology, in close collaboration with the Universities of Innsbruck and Copenhagen. The project headed by Prof. Köhl will focus on the impact of the complement system on the early immune response towards the parasite Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii). It is estimated that about one third of the world population is infected by this pathogen. In healthy individuals, T. gondii is controlled by the immune system and resides in cysts in the brain or muscles. However, in immunocompromised persons or pregnant women that become newly infected, T. gondii can induce serious health problems. Prof. Niemann’s project is related to infections with bacteria from the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (Mtb). It will study the complement evasion mechanisms on this world-wide most dominant opportunistic pathogen that affects more than a billion people.

The programme officially started with recruitment seminar in Innsbruck and a Kick-off meeting and celebration in Obergurgl, Austria, early January 2020. The first scientific projects will start in March 2020. Eleven of the 15 PhD positions were advertised in autumn 2019. Twenty-two candidates from 16 different nations were invited to the recruitment seminar. So far 10 candidates from 8 nations have been accepted in the programme (Italy, France, Germany, Poland, Portugal, United States, Columbia, China).

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