Rockefeller University vaccine researchers selected for a grant offer from Foundation for NIH

06/30/05

A team of researchers led by Rockefeller University immunologist Ralph M. Steinman, M.D., has been selected for a grant offer from the Foundation for the NIH (FNIH) of $14 million to support the design of novel vaccines that stimulate multiple components of the body's immune response, including those that have been difficult to target with existing vaccine approaches.

The project is among 43 groundbreaking research projects to improve health in developing countries, supported by $436 million from the Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative.

The Grand Challenges initiative was launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2003, in partnership with the National Institutes of Health, with a $200 million grant to the FNIH and is a major international effort to achieve scientific breakthroughs against diseases that kill millions of people each year in the world's poorest countries. It is funded with a $450 million commitment from Gates Foundation, $27.1 million from the Wellcome Trust and $4.5 million from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The initiative is managed by global health experts at the Foundation for NIH, the Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust and CIHR.

Steinman's consortium will design vaccines that are specifically targeted to dendritic cells -- a key component of the body's immune defense system -- with the goal to stimulate stronger and more prolonged protective immune responses. Dendritic cells, known as the sentinels of the immune system, capture antigens from invading pathogens and present them to T lymphocytes, the immune cells that orchestrate the body's protective response, but their biological properties have not previously been harnessed directly in vaccine design.

The project will test this method for the creation of new vaccines against HIV, malaria, and certain forms of cancer associated with the Epstein-Barr virus. If successful, this technology could identify a better way to create vaccines that stimulate several facets of the body's protective response and that provide long-lasting protection.

The consortium includes research teams headed by Michel Nussenzweig, M.D., Ph.D., Charles Rice, Ph.D., and Christian Münz, Ph.D., at Rockefeller; Paul Racz, M.D., at the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg; and Ruth Nussenzweig, Ph.D., and Victor Nussenzweig, M.D., Ph.D., at New York University School of Medicine.

About Ralph Steinman

Steinman, the Henry G. Kunkel Professor at The Rockefeller University and a senior physician at The Rockefeller University Hospital, heads the Laboratory of Cellular Physiology and Immunology at The Rockefeller University. He also is director of the Christopher Browne Center for Immunology and Immune Diseases at Rockefeller.

In 1973, Steinman discovered the dendritic cell with his colleague, the late Zanvil Cohn.

Steinman is editor of the Journal of Experimental Medicine and advisory editor of Human Immunology, the Journal of Clinical Immunology, the Journal of Immunologic Methods, International Immunology, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Steinman also is a trustee of the Trudeau Institute, in Saranac Lake, N.Y., and serves as a scientific advisor to several organizations including the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center, the AACR Cancer Immunology Task Force, the Charles A. Dana Foundation, a European consortium on the development of HIV vaccines, and the Canadian Vaccine Initiative in AIDS, Hepatitis and Cancer (CANVAC).

As an immunology pioneer, Steinman is member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation, the American Academy of Microbiologists, the American Society of Cell Biology, the American Association of Immunologists, the Harvey, Kunkel and Practitioner's Societies, and the Society for Leukocyte Biology.

A recipient of the Gairdner Foundation International Award, Freidrich-Sasse, Emil von Behring and Robert Koch Prizes, Steinman also has received the Rudolf Virchow and Coley Medals. He has been awarded honorary degrees from the University of Innsburck and Free University of Brussels. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and its Institute of Medicine.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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