Developing new anti-bacterial vaccines based on synthetic polysaccharides

Erasmus Plus

The planned mobility project will further strengthen and institutionalize the already existing collaboration between Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC), Havana University, and the Havana Medical Sciences University in Cuba. This mobility project with Cuba is in line with the general intention and strategy of Leiden University to create a more international student, to strengthen the international character of the University, to internationalize the learning experience for all students, and to extend our collaborative networks to other countries and regions. More specifically, the Leiden University Medical Center has chosen several countries to cooperate and Cuba is one of the designated countries. Cuba was selected due to its high level of preventive care and vaccine research (despite the impact of international sanctions on medicine and medical supplies, Cuban health outcomes are comparable to those of developed countries [2010, Science, 328, 572-573]). 

The main reason for starting a mobility project in the framework of Erasmus+ KA1 is to make the mobility between the Netherlands and Cuba two-sided. The knowledge and skills available in both countries are of an equal level, but mobility is currently limited to staff and students going from Leiden to Havana, but not from Havana to Leiden. The project would greatly benefit from a more equal participation from both sides. Unfortunately, there are no funds available in Cuba for either the staff or student mobility to the Netherlands. Erasmus+ funding would enable such a mobility opportunity.

Within the project, the Cuban partners will design and develop new tools that are important for anti-cancer and vaccination strategies. These tools, developed by Cuban students, will be tested and optimized with in vitro/in vivo experiments at the Leiden University exploiting the state-of-the-art facilities, equipment and knowledge that is available at the LUMC. Therefore, the planned mobility project will be a unique experience for Cuban students. At the same time, the Cuban preventive health care system can also serve as an example for the Netherlands in its efforts to keep health care affordable.

Students from Havana have an excellent level in chemistry/biology and immunology. In Leiden they will be trained in immunology (LUMC) and in nanotechnology and molecular imaging applied to immunology (Leiden Institute of Chemistry and Nanomedicine and Molecular Imaging at the Radiology Department from Leiden University Medical Center). Staff members from Havana will come to Leiden for training/teaching. Staff members from here will go to Havana only for teaching.

In Cuba they are developing new anti-bacterial vaccines based on polysaccharides. Here we will study a way to optimize the vaccine-efficacy. For this type of studies the facilities and expertise from LUMC are necessary, which include the immunology lab, cell culture and flow cytometry (expensive apparatus). In addition, Leiden will also develop a nanotechnology approach based on the Cuban vaccines. To teach Cuban students all these new approaches and new areas of immunology and chemistry, staff from Leiden will go to Havana. In conclusion, we have a practical training based on new results (Cuban students here in Leiden), and a tutorial/teaching aim in Havana. The carbohydrate-vaccine field is new and the Cubans were pioneers in this field.