Dr Melissa Kapulu

Melissa

Dr Melissa Kapulu

Principal Research Investigator

Research groups:

Biography

I am a trained immunologist and vaccinologist having undertaken DPhil on malaria transmission-blocking vaccines at the University of Oxford. Following on from this, I served as a post-doc with Kevin Marsh and Philip Bejon at the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme in Kilifi working on assessing the infectious reservoir of malaria. From 2015, portfolio of work expanded to setting up currently the largest single-site falciparum controlled human malaria infection study in 161 volunteers leading a diverse team in Kenya in collaboration with key partners in this field. 

Collaborations 

External: Malaria transmission-blocking: Dr Andrew Blagborough (Imperial College/University of Cambridge); Prof Teun Bousema (Radboud); Prof Sumi Biswas (University of Oxford); Dr Dari Da (IRD, Burkina Faso); Dr Bob Taylor (MORU); Prof Takafumi Tsuboi (Ehime University, Japan). Malaria immunology/CHMI: Prof Katie Ewer, Prof Adrian Hill (University of Oxford); Prof Stephen Hoffman, Dr Peter Billingsley, Dr Kim Lee Sim, Dr Tom Richie (Sanaria); Prof Nick Day, Prof Jetsumon Pra (MORU/Mahidol). Shigella and enterics immunology and metagenomics: Dr Audino Podda (GVGH); Prof Rino Rappuoli (GSK); Dr Lou Bourgeois, Dr Rob Choy (PATH); Dr Rob Kaminski (WRAIR); Dr Kawsar Talaat (JHU); Dr Fredrick Sawe (KEMRI-Kericho); Dr Chad Porter (NMRC); Dr James Kublin (Fred Hutch); Prof Roma Chilengi (CIDRZ). Social science and empirical ethics: Dr Zeb Jamrozik (University of Oxford); Katherine Littler (WHO) 

Scientific Involvements:  

Teaching: Vaccinology in Africa (MSc Level Course), University of Oxford; African Immunobiology of Parasites, Pathogens, and Pathogenesis (AfriBoP), KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme and University of Glasgow 

Supervision:  

Current PhD students:  

Elizabeth Kibwana: Primary Supervisor of PhD studentship, KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme and Open University, UK – vaccine correlates for protection in the context of CHMI. 

Caroline Bundi: Director of Studies of PhD Studentship, KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme and Open University, UK – immunogenicity of malaria vaccines. 

Mary Kirui: Secondary Supervisor of PhD studentship, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) Kenya – immunological and microbiological analyses in Shigella challenge studies. 

 

Past PhD students: 

Michelle Muthui: Primary Supervisor of PhD studentship, KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme and Open University, UK. 

Emma Khaemba: Co-Supervisor PhD Studentship, KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme and Moi University, Kenya.  

 

Past MSc Students: 

William Muasya: Primary Supervisor of MSc research project, KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme and Pwani University, Kenya. 

Brian Omondi: Primary Supervisor of MSc research project, KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme and Egerton University 

Christine Kinya: Primary Supervisor of MSc research project, KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme and University of Nairobi, Kenya. 

Dennis Mutinda: Primary Supervisor of MSc research project, KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme and University of Nairobi, Kenya. 

 

Past Post-graduate Students (post-BSc): 

William Muasya: Primary Supervisor of Post-Graduate Diploma research project, KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme and Pwani University, Kenya. 

Rashid Abdi: Primary Supervisor of Post-Graduate Diploma research project, KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme and Pwani University, Kenya. 

Dora Mkabili: Primary Supervisor of Internship research project, KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kenya. 

 

Reviews:  

Reviewer responsibility: 

Nature Communications Clinical Infectious Diseases 

BMC Infectious Diseases Frontiers Immunology  

Malaria Journal Parasite and Vectors  

Vaccine Plos Neglected Tropical Diseases 

 

Editorial responsibilities: 

Frontiers Immunology – Reviewing Editor in Vaccines and Molecular Therapeutics 

 

Grant Review responsibilities: 

Future Leaders: African Independent Research (Biological), Royal Society – FLAIR Fellowship Scheme 

 

Links

Work centres around better understanding naturally acquired immunity for the design, development and testing of vaccines currently for the infectious diseases for malaria and Shigella. This involves developing and/or establishing tools and models to identify, characterise, understand, and evaluate vaccines, particularly the controlled human infection models, in disease endemic populations. We have established the controlled human malaria infection platform in Kilifi Kenya and furthermore, an enteric, Shigella, human infection model will be established and an establishment of an induced blood-stage malaria infection model within the same setting. Thus, the programme of work focuses on addressing the following broad aims: 

  • Interrogating immunity (vaccine-induced and naturally acquired) to malaria (utilising CHMI vaccine efficacy model; CHMI transmission model, malaria surveillance cohort, previous cross-sectional and longitudinal cohorts (AFIRM and LAMB cohorts) and Shigella (utilising Shigella HIS and archived samples from Biobank) – protein production, microarray, mass spectrometry and cytometry, systems serology, RNA sequencing  
  • Understanding role of microbiome influence in host immunity (utilising Shigella HIS and archived samples from Biobank) – NGS
  • Identification of molecular markers of malaria transmission – RNA sequencing (transcriptomics), cDNA microarray, and mosquito feeding assays 
  • Utilisation of a structure-aided approach to vaccine design for malaria transmission and Shigella – cell sorting, BCR sequencing, and monoclonal antibody production 
  • Safety and PCR monitoring in 161 semi-immune Kenyan adults following controlled human malaria infection. Kapulu MC, Njuguna P, Hamaluba M, Kimani D, Ngoi JM, Musembi J, Ngoto O, Otieno E, Billingsley PF; Controlled Human Malaria Infection in Semi-Immune Kenyan Adults (CHMI-SIKA) Study Team. JCI Insight. (2021);6(17):e146443.  
  • Key criteria for the ethical acceptability of COVID-19 human challenge studies: Report of a WHO Working Group. Jamrozik E, Littler K, Bull S, Emerson C, Kang G, Kapulu M, Rey E, Saenz C, Shah S, Smith PG, Upshur R, Weijer C, Selgelid MJ; WHO Working Group for Guidance on Human Challenge Studies in COVID-19. Vaccine. (2021); 39:633. 
  • Ethics of controlled human infection to address COVID-19. Shah SK, Miller FG, Darton TC, Duenas D, Emerson C, Lynch HF, Jamrozik E, Jecker NS, Kamuya D, Kapulu M, Kimmelman J, MacKay D, Memoli MJ, Murphy SC, Palacios R, Richie TL, Roestenberg M, Saxena A, Saylor K, Selgelid MJ, Vaswani V, Rid A. Science. (2020); 368:832. 
  • Gametocyte carriage in an era of changing malaria epidemiology: A 19-year analysis of a malaria longitudinal cohort. Muthui MK, Mogeni P, Mwai K, Nyundo C, Macharia A, Williams TN, Nyangweso G, Wambua J, Mwanga D, Marsh K, Bejon P, Kapulu MC. Wellcome Open Res (2019); 4:66 
  • Examining the human infectious reservoir for Plasmodium falciparum malaria in areas of differing transmission intensity. Goncalves BP*, Kapulu MC*, Sawa P, Guelbéogo WM, Tiono AB, Grignard L, Stone W, Hellewell J, Lanke K, Bastiaens GJ, Bradley J, Nébié I, Ngoi JM, Oriango R, Mkabili D, Nyaurah M, Midega J, Wirth DF, Marsh K, Churcher TS, Bejon P, Sirima SB, Drakeley C, Bousema T. Nat Commun. (2017); 8:1133. *Contributed equally to the work. 

Advisory Committees/Technical Working Groups: 

  • Member, International Severe Acute Respiratory and emerging Infection Consortium (ISARIC) COVID-19 Science Committee (CSC) 
  • Member, WHO Working Group: Human Challenge Studies in COVID-19. 
  • Member, WHO Working Group: Human Infection Studies in LMICs 
  • Member, The malERA Consultative Panel on Characterising the Reservoir and Measuring Transmission 

 

Research Group Members:

  • Francesca Orenge (Research Medical Officer) – Shigella challenge studies lead clinician with support for CHMI studies; 
  • Domtila Kimani (Research Officer) – CHMI immunological and PCR analyses;
  • Kelvias Keter (Assistant Research Officer) – CHMI immunological and PCR analyses;
  • Rose Gatheru (Assistant Research Officer) – CHMI immunological and PCR analyses;
  • Agnes Mutiso (Assistant Research Officer)  – Shigella immunological and microbiological analyses;
  • Edward Otieno (Data Manager) – data management for human infection studies platform;
  • Shadrack Mramba (Data Entry Clerk) – data management for human infection studies platform;
  • Robert Mwakesi (Senior Laboratory Technician) – insectary team member for malaria transmission studies;
  • Martha Muturi (Laboratory Technician) – insectary team member for malaria transmission studies; and
  • Festus Mure (Senior Fieldworker) – insectary team member for malaria transmission studies.