The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) awarded a $6.9 million grant to researchers at the Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research (IBBR) to design a vaccine to combat the virus that causes Hepatitis C, an illness that affects an estimated 71 million people worldwide. Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) puts people at heightened risk for severe liver disease, including fibrosis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer). Although treatments are available, an HCV vaccine currently does not exist to help prevent infections and reduce the global burden of the disease.
This 5-year award will support a multi-disciplinary research team based at IBBR, a joint research enterprise between the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP), the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) dedicated to transformative discoveries in the field of bioscience and biotechnology. The researchers aim to design a vaccine to induce broadly neutralizing antibodies and long-term memory T cell responses that will help prevent HCV infection. This recent award is a follow-on to a $6 million grant awarded to the IBBR research team in 2017 based on their significant progress in the field.
“The vaccine development team that was assembled at the IBBR to take on this challenge has done a fantastic job over the past six years in moving this groundbreaking research program forward,” said Thomas Fuerst, program director, IBBR Fellow and Professor of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics at UMCP. “This new grant allows us to keep building upon that success and to hopefully realize our ultimate goal of making a vaccine against HCV available to the public.”
“IBBR’s mission is to harness the latest developments in science and engineering to provide solutions to complex medical and public health needs around the world,” said Jennifer King Rice, Senior Vice President and Provost at UMCP. “This project is a wonderful example of the exciting and transformative research that is possible when we combine the world-leading expertise of faculty from both the College Park and Baltimore campuses.”
The vaccine development team includes IBBR researchers from the Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics at UMCP, the School of Medicine at UMB, as well Princeton University. In addition to Thomas Fuerst, principal investigators include Brian Pierce, IBBR Fellow and Assistant Professor at UMCP; Roy Mariuzza, IBBR Fellow and Professor at UMCP; Gilad Ofek, IBBR Fellow and Assistant Professor at UMCP; Alexander Andrianov, IBBR Fellow and Research Professor; Nevil Singh, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland School of Medicine Department of Microbiology and Immunology; and Alexander Ploss, Associate Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton University. Eric Toth, IBBR Fellow and Assistant Research Professor also serves as a co-Investigator and Yunus Abdul, IBBR Research Scientist will assist with animal studies.
IBBR is a joint research enterprise of the University of Maryland, College Park, the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). IBBR brings together critical elements necessary to inspire transformative discoveries in the field of bioscience and biotechnology and provides innovative solutions to major scientific and engineering challenges important to society. IBBR researchers seek to advance the fields of biomedical research, therapeutic development, biomedical manufacturing, and state-of-the-art measurement technologies, to support accelerated delivery of safe and effective medicines to the public. IBBR is financially supported in part by the University of Maryland Strategic Partnership: MPowering the State, an initiative designed to achieve innovation and impact through collaboration.