A professor at the University of Rhode Island (URI) has been awarded a $13 million funding from the NIH to develop an integrated gene-to-vaccine program targeting emerging infectious diseases. The aim is to integrate vaccine-design studies in silico with in vitro and in vivo research.
The NIH money will enable Annie De Groot, M.D., and URI colleagues to collaborate with researchers at Lifespan and EpiVax to develop vaccines that address diseases like heptatitis C and helicobacter pylori as well as engineered bioterror agents.
“The unique area of focus will be what are called immunome-derived vaccines,” says Dr. De Groot. “Compared to traditional vaccines, immunome-derived vaccines have the potential to be safer and more effective since they focus the protective immune response on the most essential antigenic elements of the pathogenic bacteria or virus while eliminating potentially cross-reactive and deleterious or simply inert components, reducing the potential for adverse outcomes.”
The funding will also support a training course and pilot grants for researchers interested in using new vaccine-design tools developed by Dr. De Groot’s team. Additionally, the grant will allow Dr. De Groot to hire eight new staff members for the Institute for Immunology and Informatics, and it will also result in new hires at affiliated research centers.