Working for the good of mankind
“The recipient of a Vanier scholarship should be a world-class scholar who is using his or her knowledge and research skills for the welfare of mankind,” says Channakeshava (Keshav) Sokke Umeshappa, Vanier Canada Graduate Scholar in Immunology-Transplantation at the University of Saskatchewan.
Keshav is examining the interactions between certain important types of immune cells, i.e. CD4 and CD8 T-cells, and attempting to understand how these immune cells interact to create an optimal immune response and defend the body against cancers and viral diseases.
“When infection occurs by a pathogen, our immune system keeps the memory of this pathogen, often in the form of CD8 memory T-cells,” says Keshav. “If the pathogen strikes again, the memory cells respond very quickly and clear the infection. This is the principle behind vaccinations.”
Generally, most infectious diseases, including bacterial and viral diseases, can be prevented by vaccination thanks to prompt CD8 T-cell and antibody responses. In many intractable diseases, like cancer, and chronic diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis B, this protective immunity is correlated predominantly with CD8 T-cell responses.
“Usually, the development of functional memory CD8 T-cells is largely governed by signalling from CD4 T-cells,” says Keshav. “So my research is attempting to understand this relationship. This could then improve the development of successful vaccines or immunotherapies against these intractable diseases.”
Originally from Sokke, which is near Bangalore in India, Keshav says the Vanier scholarship has given him the financial security to focus on his research, and improved his chances of becoming a leader in his field. “I sincerely thank the Canadian government for initiating this prestigious program that will allow more and more promising young scientists to develop their potential, not only in Canada, but also around the world,” he says.
“The [Vanier] award has motivated me considerably. It has given me more responsibility,” he adds. “In addition to my publication and academic records, being a Vanier scholar is already making a difference to my future career as a researcher. I am already getting very good responses from most of the laboratories I contacted for my postdoc position.”