DALLAS Oct. 22, 2008 The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced today that it has awarded a UT Southwestern Medical Center scientist a grant to pursue innovative vaccine research.
The $100,000 grant to Dr. Ellen Vitetta, director of the Cancer Immunobiology Center at UT Southwestern, is one of 104 grants awarded in the first funding round of the Grand Challenges Explorations program, a $100 million, five-year initiative to promote innovation in global health. Additional funding of $1 million or more will be available for projects that show promise, according to the Gates Foundation.
Dr. Vitetta's work will focus on a new approach to developing "mimetic vaccines," which would be based on using synthetic molecules called peptoids to generate a protective immune response to a given pathogen. Dr. Thomas Kodadek, professor of internal medicine and an expert in peptoid chemistry, is a collaborator on the project.
Currently, vaccines are developed using dead or attenuated microbes, or bits and pieces of the infectious agent itself, as a basis for stimulating the human immune system to produce antibodies, or infection-fighting agents, against the disease. Dr. Vitetta's research group will screen thousands of peptoids for their ability to bind to pre-made monoclonal antibodies that are already known to neutralize all varieties of a given pathogen. For example, the researchers will look for peptoids that bind to antibodies that recognize structural features shared by all HIV strains.
"The key advantage to using peptoids to develop mimetic vaccines is that these vaccines would not be limited in their effectiveness to a particular strain or subspecies of a given virus, but rather recognize all viruses of each type. Furthermore huge libraries of peptoids can be made and screened," said Dr. Vitetta, who holds the Scheryle Simmons Patigian Distinguished Chair in Cancer Immunobiology.
Once promising peptoids are identifie
|Contact: Amanda Siegfried|
UT Southwestern Medical Center