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NIH Awards Baylor Researchers $4.5M to Study Vaccine Efficacy

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By Justin Petrone

Researchers at Baylor Research Institute in Dallas were recently awarded a one-year, $4.5 million National Institutes of Health grant to study vaccine response in humans.

A team led by Jacques Banchereau, director of the Baylor Institute for Immunology Research, will use microarray technology to perform a systems analysis of vaccine responses in healthy and hyporesponsive subjects, according to the grant. The award was announced July 12 and is expected to end on June 30, 2011.

Specifically, the team will investigate inactivated influenza vaccine as well as hepatitis B vaccine with either alum as the traditional adjuvant, sold by GSK as Engerix, or with CPG-oligonucleotides, marketed by Dynavax Technologies and Merck as Heplisav. The scientists aim to identify biomarker signatures indicative of the quality of vaccine-induced antibody responses, according to the grant abstract.

During the study, the researchers plan to carry out several projects in order to increase their knowledge of vaccine-induced immune system alterations in dendritic cells, monocytes and T follicular helper cells. These projects include discovering biomarkers related to humoral immune responses; developing an ex vivo assay for predicting immune response to vaccination; creating tools to assess vaccine-activated cells; conducting a systems biology analysis of two adjuvants: alum and CPG-oligonucleotides; conducting a systems biology analysis of the response to vaccine in patients with altered immune systems; and using a focused microarray, called the Immunochip to assess vaccine immune efficacy.

The ultimate purpose of the project is to "study how the flu vaccine generates effective antibody responses," and to "identify the immune responses elicited by effective vaccines so that vaccines that aren't as effective can be improved," according to the grant abstract.

E-mails send to Baylor's Banchereau seeking comment on the new project were not returned in time for this publication.

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