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Baylor College of Medicine

Syringe Needle
Vaccine syringe and three vials

Department of Defense funds development of a new Lyme disease vaccine

Molly Chiu

713-798-4710

Houston, TX -
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The National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine along with Texas Children’s Hospital’s Center for Vaccine Development has received an $860,000 grant from the Department of Defense (DOD) to develop a recombinant protein vaccine for Lyme disease, the most common vector-borne disease in the general U.S. population and the U.S. military. Researchers from Baylor will partner on this work with Lyme disease experts from the Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health.

Lyme disease, transmitted by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, can infect at the site of the tick bite and then survive in the bloodstream and spread to the heart, joints or brain, resulting in arthritis, neurological abnormalities and carditis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 300,000 people are infected annually, especially in the Midwest and Northeast, including New York state. The disease cases also have been geographically expanded in the past 20 years.

“No human Lyme disease vaccine is currently available, and those candidates that have advanced into clinical trials have not developed a safe and effective or efficient response,” said Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, associate dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and co-director of Texas Children’s Center for Vaccine Development. “We have partnered with the experts that have identified a novel vaccine antigen and plan to accelerate its development as a new prototype vaccine from the bench into the clinic.”

Baylor researchers and partners will develop a process to manufacture the vaccine prototype and define host immune responses triggered by the prototypic vaccine under different regimens, including different doses, number of immunizations and type of immune-stimulants, to identify the most efficient way to prevent bacterial colonization and Lyme disease manifestation.

“Contributing to this work and applying our strict quality system practices will be crucial to realize our long-term goal to develop a Lyme disease vaccine, and our vaccine center is well poised to achieve the goals of the project,” said Dr. Wen-Hsiang Chen, assistant professor of tropical medicine at Baylor and director of vaccine quality control and analytical development at Texas Children’s.

“This program builds nicely on our strengths in identifying Lyme disease bacterial proteins as vaccine candidates and investigating how injecting these vaccine candidates blocks tick-to-human transmission of bacteria and/or prevents the disease manifestations,” said Dr. Yi-Pin Lin at Wadsworth Center, New York State Department of Health. “This study will significantly benefit the quality of life for U.S. Service members, their families and the general public around the globe.”

The U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity, 820 Chandler Street, Fort Detrick MD 21702- 5014 is the awarding and administering acquisition office. This work is supported by the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, through the Tick-Borne Disease Research Program under Award No. W81XWH-20-1-0913. Opinions, interpretations, conclusions and recommendations are those of the author and are not endorsed by the DOD. In conducting research using animals, the investigator(s) adheres to the laws of the United States and regulations of the Department of Agriculture. In the conduct of research utilizing recombinant DNA, the investigator adhered to NIH Guidelines for research involving recombinant DNA molecules. In the conduct of research involving hazardous organisms or toxins, the investigator adhered to the CDC-NIH Guide for Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories.

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