Accelerating the evaluation and development of new vaccines for emerging health threats is the goal of University of Texas at Austin researchers who recently received $6.5 million from the U.S. Department of Defense and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.
"The contract is significant because it will help us develop a new paradigm for vaccine evaluation, one that could accelerate the development of new, effective vaccines for emerging diseases," said George Georgiou, principal investigator on the four-year contract and professor in the College of Natural Sciences and Cockrell School of Engineering.
Georgiou's collaborators include the College of Natural Sciences' Edward Marcotte, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, Andy Ellington, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Gregory Ippolito, research assistant professor of molecular genetics and microbiology.
Vaccine development and testing, where efficacy and duration of protection are determined, currently requires large longitudinal clinical studies. The process is expensive, time consuming and requires lengthy trials. The research pioneered by the University of Texas at Austin team could lead to future fast-track vaccine solutions when unexpected threats are present.
The researchers' goal is to develop a system that accelerates that process, matching the often-rapid pace at which diseases emerge and new vaccines need to be developed, tested and distributed.
The team will capitalize on a pioneering immunoprofiling technology recently developed at the university that allows them to directly identify antibodies in the blood that are induced following vaccination and shows how these antibodies in turn act to protect against pathogens.
They hope to better understand how vaccines provide protection, what determines the duration that individuals are protected, and how people respond uniquely and individually to vaccines. The researchers will also gain an unprecedented depth of information on the nature of antibody-based immune responses in humans.