Published August 18, 2022
Developing a more effective vaccine for tuberculosis is the goal of research led by Jonathan F. Lovell, PhD, SUNY Empire Innovation Associate Professor of biomedical engineering, that has been funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Lovell is co-principal investigator on the study titled “Developing a Multivalent Subunit Particle Vaccine Against Tuberculosis.” It is funded for $1.4 million over three years by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and is subject to an additional two years of funding if certain milestones are met in the first three years.
“We are trying to develop an improved tuberculosis vaccine,” Lovell says. “To do so, we will develop protein nanoparticle vaccines and test their efficacy in collaboration with researchers at Colorado State University.”
To design an effective multivalent TB vaccine, nanoparticles will be decorated with established recombinant antigens using a next-generation adjuvant system that induces seamless, spontaneous and biostable antigen surface display, according to Lovell.
Key parameters of particle formation will be examined and the vaccine will be benchmarked against Bacillus Calmette–Guérin vaccination and tested in mouse and guinea pig animal models of TB infection, he adds.
On this study, Lovell is collaborating with Elizabeth A. Wohlfert, PhD, assistant professor of microbiology and immunology, who will provide immunology expertise.
Andres Obregnon Henao, PhD, senior research scientist at Colorado State University, is the study’s co-principal investigator.
“We connected as we were interested in TB vaccines and he is an expert on the animal disease model,” Lovell says.
Lovell notes that tuberculolsis is a high problem globally and causes more deaths than malaria and HIV.
It is the second leading infectious killer after COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization.
Lovell says that several factors have contributed to the difficulties in developing an effective vaccine for tuberculosis.
“For one, the bacterium hides out inside immune cells, making it difficult for the immune system to target,” he says. “A second issue is that it is not yet clear what makes a good TB vaccine.”