Dr Claire Chewapreecha
International Fellow, MORU Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit
Claire is a computational biologist based in Thailand and committed to improving public health in Southeast Asia through the development of high quality biomedical research. She is particularly interested in Melioidosis, a neglected tropical infectious disease predicted to affect 165,000 cases per year worldwide, of which 89,000 die. Currently, there is no vaccine available.
Claire Chewapreecha is a Wellcome International Intermediate Fellow at the Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU) where she leads the Melioidosis Genomic Group in Bangkok; and a lecturer at King Mongkut University of Technology Thonburi where she teaches a new generation of Thai bioinformaticians.
Her research focuses on Melioidosis, a rapidly progressing and frequently fatal disease caused by a soil bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei. Healthy individuals living in disease hotspots such as northeast Thailand develop serological evidence of exposure from early childhood. However, not all exposure leads to disease and infections can have variable outcomes, suggesting that there may be bacterial, host, or environmental components that influence disease acquisition and severity.
Her goals are:
- Identify pseudomallei genetic factors that determine disease severity;
- Identify host biomarkers associated with susceptibility to Melioidosis and disease severity;
- Construct models scoring pseudomallei and host factors to predict disease outcome.
As diabetes mellitus is a major predisposing risk factor for melioidosis, she will also test whether the factors in 1) – 2) are modulated by host diabetes status. A dual understanding of B. pseudomallei and host factors leading to poor Melioidosis outcomes could improve our ability to manage this disease.
Career to date
Claire has been awarded a series of studentships and fellowships to support her education and research. This has included funding from the Royal Thai Government (A-Level to PhD, 2005-2014), the Cambridge Oversea Trust (undergraduate: University of Cambridge, 2007-2010), a Wellcome Sanger Institute studentship (PhD: Sanger- University of Cambridge, 2010-2014), a Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellowship (early research career: University of Cambridge, 2015-2019), and more recently a Wellcome International Intermediate Fellowship (leading a research programme: MORU, 2019-2024). This provided Claire not only her training in bioinformatics but also opportunities to work and collaborate with highly respected researchers including Professors Julian Parkhill, Stephen Bentley, Gordon Dougan, Sharon Peacock, Julian Knight, Emma Davenport, Jukka Corander, and Nicholas Thomson.
With a strong research network, Claire hopes to help develop translational approaches that rationalise vaccine design by targeting the most harmful bacteria and most susceptible individuals. Her long-term goal is to build a sustainable genomic research programme for melioidosis and other infectious diseases in Thailand, and to link newly formed bioinformatics teams, Wellcome research units in Southeast Asia, Wellcome Sanger Institute, and the global research partners.