May 14, 2010

New center unites efforts to develop novel vaccines

New center unites efforts to develop novel vaccines

Vaccine science at Vanderbilt has taken a major step forward with the recent formation of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center.

The center, directed by James Crowe Jr., M.D., professor of Pediatrics, Microbiology and Immunology, was created from a core of existing programs to allow for development of vaccines from the “ground up.”

James Crowe Jr., M.D.

James Crowe Jr., M.D.

The center's grant requests have built a portfolio of about $20 million. Recent hiring has strengthened support staff to allow for continuous application of grants and to staff labs.

Disciplines across campus are collaborating to streamline work in areas of basic science research, including microbiology, chemistry and immunology, in the pursuit of developing candidate vaccines.

Crowe said these efforts complement long-standing strengths in clinical sciences like pediatrics and pathology, as well as an internationally renowned program for vaccine testing.

“Vanderbilt has a long-standing history of more than 30 years of testing vaccines. The center provides a bridge between basic science and clinical research to bring the concept of a new vaccine from the bench to clinical trials,” Crowe said.

Crowe said bringing a vaccine from bench to bedside is a long process, typically about 25 years, but the support at Vanderbilt for translational research like this is very strong.

“The Vanderbilt Vaccine Center positions Vanderbilt University to be in the lead amongst institutions translating basic scientific knowledge into life-saving technologies,” said Jonathan Gitlin, M.D., James C. Overall Professor and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics.

“Jim Crowe is an international expert in virology and the ideal leader for this superb center.”

Vanderbilt is also expected to benefit from the acclaim the Vaccine Center can bring.

“The Vanderbilt Vaccine Center will be a major draw for pediatric physician-scientists, both trainees and faculty, hoping to become leaders in this area,” said Lou Muglia, M.D., Ph.D., vice chair for Research Affairs in Pediatrics. “The Center brings together a truly unique multidisciplinary group of investigators to impact on viral diseases that have eluded previous attempts at prevention.”

Another strength of the Center is the agreement signed this year between Vanderbilt and an infectious disease and vaccine research center in Buenos Aires, called INFANT Foundation, headed by Fernando Polack, M.D., Cesar Milstein associate professor of Pediatrics, giving the center international reach.

“A significant goal this year is to take our first vaccine that we developed ourselves to clinical trials, and we have several candidates,” Crowe said.
“The center has major funding and emphasis on vaccines for the major pathogens of our time: HIV, dengue virus, influenza, RSV and other respiratory viruses.”