Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative funds Yale project

06/30/05

Yale has been offered $17 million from the Grand Challenges in Global health initiative to genetically engineer mice with immune systems similar enough to humans to aid in testing the safety and effectiveness of potential vaccines.

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Yale project will be headed by Richard A. Flavell, M.D., Sterling Professor and Chair of Immunobiology at Yale University School of Medicine, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.

Flavell and his team will study a novel solution to a problem facing many vaccine developers. Some of the most promising vaccines for HIV and a range of other diseases are made from weakened versions of the infectious agent. These cannot be studied in human trials unless researchers are confident that they are safe.

"A big need in the world of vaccine development is the ability to predict whether vaccines for humans are safe and effective," said Flavell. "We are grateful to the Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative for providing the funds to develop a predictive model system for vaccine testing."

Yale School of Medicine Dean Robert Alpern, M.D., said, "This generous grant from the Grand Challenges in Global Health Initiative provides a boost to Yale's ongoing initiatives in basic science and clinical research. It will advance research on diseases that have an effect on communities worldwide."

The goal of this award is to provide to the research community a suitable model system to test live attenuated vaccines for use in the developing world. Flavell said the mice generated would be made available to the broader scientific community in order to meet the charitable objectives of the Grand Challenges Initiative. Flavell will collaborate with the Institute for Research in Biomedicine in Switzerland and with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in Tarrytown, New York.

The team will engineer a mouse model in which critical components of the human immune system replace the similar regions of the mouse. A new technology developed at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine introduces cells from human umbilical cord blood into mice to establish a human immune system. "Using this technology and the genetic modification of the mouse, we will end up with a reasonably faithful replica of the human immune system," said Flavell.

The project is titled "A Mouse Model to Evaluate Live-Attenuated Vaccine Candidates."

Source: Eurekalert & others

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