Grant awarded to study immune response to vaccines

Officials with the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases have awarded a five-year, $15.5 million grant to the Emory Vaccine  Center at Yerkes National Primate Research Center to study human immune responses to vaccination.

Researchers will tackle a fundamental challenge in the field of vaccine development – that the effectiveness of a vaccination can only be observed after those vaccinated have been exposed to infection, HealthNewsDigest reports.

Bali Pulendran, a Charles Howard Candler Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Emory University and principal investigator of the research, told that he intends to use an approach that involves immunology, genomics and bioinformatics to predict the immunity of a vaccine without exposing individuals to infection.

Using this approach in a 1998 study, Pulendran was able to identify signatures of gene expression in the blood a few days after vaccination that could predict with up to 90 percent accuracy the strength of the immune response to the yellow fever vaccine.

Now, he will use this similar approach to attempt to predict the effectiveness of other vaccines, including common vaccines against influenza, pneumococcal disease and shingles, according to

“We anticipate our collaborative research at the Center for Systems Vaccinology will address an important public health challenge in identifying novel biomarkers of vaccine efficacy,” Pulendran told “Such research will also synergize with studies in animal models to help understand the nature of the human immune response with an exquisite degree of depth and resolution.”

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