Integrated vaccine research

February, 2014

Viruses, while being perhaps the simplest forms of life, have developed many survival strategies to evade their hosts’ immune system. One of these defense mechanisms is antigenic variation, by which viruses “disguise” themselves to avoid getting recognized by the immune system. While many viruses such as smallpox, measles and polio have been either eradicated or under control through vaccination, broadly cross-protective vaccines do not exist for viruses that undergo significant antigenic variation. Viruses such as HIV-1, influenza virus and PRRSV (Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome Virus) are good examples and they epitomize the next level of scientific challenge that mankind faces in a fight against infectious diseases.

Major objectives

The major objective of our program is to conduct highly collaborative, integrative, and interdisciplinary research to establish the scientific foundation and to develop novel strategies with a long-term goal of producing efficacious and cost-effective vaccines against these viruses. We have chosen to focus our efforts on these three viruses because of (1) existing strengths at ISU, (2) societal importance of these viruses, (3) economic impact of influenza and PRRSV to the swine and poultry industries in Iowa, and (4) the common scientific challenge and potential synergy between these research areas.

Our strategy is to combine the expertise from five scientific disciplines to carry out interdisciplinary research on vaccine development. Creating such an interdisciplinary team of investigators would enable the members to take more creative, innovative approaches and broaden the scope of their research. Strong synergy and cross-fertilization are also expected between research groups working on different viruses. More importantly, having a consortium with a critical mass of investigators with diverse expertise at ISU would catalyze collaborations with additional researchers at other institutions and facilitate new research programs against other pathogens in the future.

Specific research projects include: (1) structure-based immunogen design, (2) development of nanotechnology-based vaccine delivery platforms, (3) proteo-genomics approaches to understand B-cell immunity and antibody responses, (4) development of novel vectors for inducing protective mucosal immunity, (5) defining the mechanism of protective immunity to heterologous virus strains and understanding vaccine associated enhancement of infection and disease, (6) determination of factors that influence efficacy of vaccines in immunocompromised individuals, and (7) the role of host genes in immunity to influenza virus in swine and avian models.

New pathway to vaccine, infectious disease research

Our mission is critically important to human and animal health, and the potential impact of our work on the Iowa and global economies is enormously high. Our vision will pave a new pathway for future vaccine and infectious diseases research.

Investigators' websites

Links to some of the investigators’ websites:

HIV-Inflenza-PRRSV diagram
Diagram of key elements in the research