Auburn researchers take innovative approach to vaccine development

Researchers at Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine are taking a non-traditional approach to vaccine development that could pay big dividends for the health of humans and animals.

According to the university, a team composed of pathobiology professor Dr. Bernhard Kaltenboeck and two graduate students - Erfan Chowdhury and Yihang Li - has been working on a vaccine that kills intracellular diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria, which have historically been resistant to vaccines that are intended to build up antibodies.

The researchers also say their vaccine has the potential to treat many other problematic afflictions including HIV, cancer, and chlamydia.

After years of development, Kaltenboeck, Chowdhury, and Li are ready to steer their vaccine toward the market for both veterinary and medical applications.

Vaccine development with a twist

The vaccine from the team at Auburn veers from the traditional approach by using a significantly lower dose than typical vaccines, which prompts the body to initiate an immune cell response that is more effective at attacking the disease.

"Some diseases occur primarily inside cells,” said Kaltenboeck in an Auburn University news release. “Perhaps it’s a virus that harbors inside of cells, or small bacteria that infect cells as opposed to the surface of tissue, or a cancer. Antibodies are ineffective in these situations. What’s needed is a cellular immune response that can remove these diseased cells.”

According to the university, this approach can be useful in preventing diseases or treating chronic infections.

In addition to using smaller doses, the Auburn researchers say their vaccine should be safer and less expensive than other vaccines. The vaccine makes use of synthetic peptides instead of actual pathogens, which reduces costs as well as avoids the introduction of additional pathogens to the patient’s body.

Taking the vaccine to market

The university is optimistic that the vaccine platform can benefit several sectors, including humanitarian efforts, veterinary medicine, pharmacology, and food production.

According to the university, the next steps for the research team and the school's Office of Technology Transfer involve:

  • Seeking funding
  • Exploring potential partnerships with major human and animal health companies
  • Looking into forming different start-up companies to focus on applying the vaccine toward specific diseases and infections
  • Considering different methods of distribution for the vaccine

Read the full story at the Auburn University website

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