Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine will receive up to $6.2 million over five years from the National Institute Of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, to develop a vaccine for severe acute respiratory syndrome, commonly called SARS.
"This will be our first major effort to develop a vaccine for a potential public health emergency threat in the United States. It gets us into a new area of biodefense while in the past we've been focusing on neglected tropical diseases," said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
SARS is a severe form of viral pneumonia that causes breathing difficulties and can lead to death. The disease emerged in 2003 in Southern China and was associated with high mortality, especially in older adults.
Researchers at the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development will work to get around the problem of immune enhancement of the vaccine – vaccines in the past have exacerbated the disease.
"The vaccine would stimulate neutralizing antibodies to block the attachment of the virus to its receptor," said Hotez, who is also the Texas Children's Hospital Endowed Chair of Tropical Pediatrics.
The vaccine would be used to prevent potential SARS outbreaks as well as for biodefense preparedness.
"Through this product development partnership approach, we will integrate, coordinate and implement innovative business-like practices with traditional basic science approaches and apply them to accelerate development technology exchanges for a recombinant SARS vaccine," said Dr. Maria Elena Bottazzi, associate dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at BCM.
Researchers from BCM will collaborate in this endeavor with highly recognized institutions such the New York Blood Center and the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston on the development of the vaccine.
SARS vaccine within reach
"Although SARS has been contained so far, there is a constant fear of reemergence, especially when used as a bioterrorism agent. Developing an effective and safe vaccine is urgently needed," said Dr. Shibo Jiang, head of New York Blood Center's Laboratory of Viral Immunology.
"With NIH grant support and a collaboration between our research institute and experts at Baylor College of Medicine, Sabin Vaccine Institute and the University of Texas Medical Branch, the development of a SARS vaccine is within our reach."
Research reported in this release was supported by the National Institute Of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01AI098775. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.