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GEN’s editor in chief, John Sterling, interviews life science academic and biotech industry leaders on important research, technology, and trends. These podcasts will keep you informed with all the important details you need.

A novel strategy for making the only tuberculosis vaccine approved for humans more effective has provided superior protection against the deadly disease in a preclinical test, report scientists at The University of Texas Health Science Center.

The Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine provides only partial protection against TB in children and is ineffective in adults. Many attempts have been made to improve the vaccine by incorporating antigens to induce a stronger immune response. However, tuberculosis and BCG have evasive mechanisms that prevent the development of stronger immune responses.

Scientists at the UT Health Science Center investigated the methods by which BCG evades immune-stimulating efforts and devised two means to neutralize them. The scientists relied on genetically modified organisms and a drug used for organ transplantation to block BCG's evasive mechanisms, causing it to induce stronger immune responses.

This dual approach to the BCG vaccine was associated with a 10-fold increase in the number of TB organisms killed and a threefold increase in the duration of protection in tests with an NIH-approved mouse model.

During this week's podcast, Dr. Robert Hunter provides additional details on what the UT team did to neutralize the BCG's ability to evade immune-stimulating mechanisms. He describes how the combination of rapamycin and a genetically modified form of M. bovis worked together to make the vaccine more effective. Dr. Hunter also lays out the research group’s plans for moving this TB vaccine research project forward.
Robert Hunter Jr., M.D., Ph.D. is distinguished professor and chairman of the department of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston. He is a specialist in the clinical pathology and immunopathology of infectious diseases.

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