Dr Rachel Stephenson

Research Fellow

School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences
Faculty of Science
r.stephenson@uq.edu.au
+61 7 334 69893

Overview

I graduated from Massey University with a PhD in Chemistry in 2010 before working as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Kansas State University (USA) and now as an Early Career Researcher at the University of Queensland (Australia). Interested in vaccine and drug design strategies, I gained extensive experience at Kansas State University on the detection and surveillance of exotic zoonotic diseases for the swine industry under the guidance of Prof Raymond Rowland. I have combined my knowledge of synthetic peptides gained throughout my PhD studies with my passion for vaccine research at the University of Queensland under the guidance of Prof Istvan Toth, and am now focusing on synthetic vaccine design and drug delivery strategies for Group A Streptococcus, cancer and tropical diseases, including schistosomiasis.

Research Interests

  • Subunit Vaccine Development
    We focus on the development of methods to improve peptide vaccine formulations against neglected diseases, and diseases for which current vaccine formulations are not ideal. Our recent focus has been on Group A Streptococcus, cancer and Schistosomiasis (also known as bilharzia or snail fever). We also focus on technologies that enable the site specific incorporation of potent vaccine adjuvants into peptide and carbohydrate-based antigens, and the targeting of these vaccines to specific cell populations enhancing vaccine efficacy.
  • Peptide delivery systems
    Peptides as drugs may suffer from issues including an inability to reach their site of action, poor absorption and degradation. Using chemical modification and characterisation we can improve the targeting, circulation time, stability, potency, etc of peptide-based therapeutics.

Qualifications

  • Bachelor of Science, Massey University
  • Bachelor of Science (Honors), Massey University
  • Doctor of Philosophy, Massey University

Publications

View all Publications

Grants

View all Grants

Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • (2016) Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision

Available Projects

  • Many glycoconjugates have been identified and used for the increased targeted delivery of vaccines. Our lipoamino acid (LAA) or lipopeptide (LP) based carrier systems have been shown to have self-adjuvanting properties. This project aims to evaluate immunological responses by increased targeting towards dendritic and macrophage cells using glycoconjugates in the ovalbumin (OVA) model system. Project aims: 1) the chemical synthesis of a series of dendritic delivery systems containing different glycoconjugates, 2) in vitro uptake studies, and 3) toxicology assessment.

  • Adjuvant development is an important area of vaccine research. This study aims to investigate particle characteristics and immunogenicity for a library of lipopeptide vaccine constructs containing an asymmetric arrangement of the Group A Streptococcus (GAS) epitopes. Lipoaminoacids (lipid) are investigated for particle rearrangement properties following self-assembly. Project aims: 1) chemical synthesis of an asymmetric GAS vaccine library and 2) physiochemical characterisation, 3) in vitro uptake studies, and 4) toxicology assessment.

  • Vaccination is one of the most effective public health strategies ever undertaken. Instead of whole killed pathogens, next generation vaccines use pathogen derived peptides, allowing fine control when tailoring the vaccine. This project aims to examine a new multi-component self-adjuvanting cyclic carrier system for the delivery of Group A Streptococcus (GAS) antigens. Here, novel nanoparticle vaccine systems will be synthesised where both adjuvant and particulate carrier are contained in a single molecular entity. Project aims: 1) chemical synthesis of lipoamino acid libraries and a series of delivery system-GAS conjugates with different rearrangements, 2) in vitro biological stability studies, 3) in vitro uptake studies, and 4) biological activity assessment.

View all Available Projects

Publications

Book Chapter

  • Eskandari, Sharareh, Stephenson, Rachel and Toth, Istvan (2016). Current boundaries in the formulation of lipid based delivery systems. In Abdus Samad, Sarwar Beg and Iram Nazish (Ed.), Liposomal delivery systems: advances and challenges (pp. 160-174) London, United Kingdom: Future Medicine. doi:10.4155/9781910419083

Journal Article

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

Completed Supervision

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • Many glycoconjugates have been identified and used for the increased targeted delivery of vaccines. Our lipoamino acid (LAA) or lipopeptide (LP) based carrier systems have been shown to have self-adjuvanting properties. This project aims to evaluate immunological responses by increased targeting towards dendritic and macrophage cells using glycoconjugates in the ovalbumin (OVA) model system. Project aims: 1) the chemical synthesis of a series of dendritic delivery systems containing different glycoconjugates, 2) in vitro uptake studies, and 3) toxicology assessment.

  • Adjuvant development is an important area of vaccine research. This study aims to investigate particle characteristics and immunogenicity for a library of lipopeptide vaccine constructs containing an asymmetric arrangement of the Group A Streptococcus (GAS) epitopes. Lipoaminoacids (lipid) are investigated for particle rearrangement properties following self-assembly. Project aims: 1) chemical synthesis of an asymmetric GAS vaccine library and 2) physiochemical characterisation, 3) in vitro uptake studies, and 4) toxicology assessment.

  • Vaccination is one of the most effective public health strategies ever undertaken. Instead of whole killed pathogens, next generation vaccines use pathogen derived peptides, allowing fine control when tailoring the vaccine. This project aims to examine a new multi-component self-adjuvanting cyclic carrier system for the delivery of Group A Streptococcus (GAS) antigens. Here, novel nanoparticle vaccine systems will be synthesised where both adjuvant and particulate carrier are contained in a single molecular entity. Project aims: 1) chemical synthesis of lipoamino acid libraries and a series of delivery system-GAS conjugates with different rearrangements, 2) in vitro biological stability studies, 3) in vitro uptake studies, and 4) biological activity assessment.