The grant will build a new approach to TB vaccine design based on genetically altered Mycobacterium smegmatis, which is closely related to the bacterial species that causes human tuberculosis.
Einstein researchers, in a study published in September in the journal Nature Medicine, demonstrated that some animals that were inoculated with the altered M. smegmatis were able to generate a robust immune response when challenged with M. tuberculosis.
Jacobs and his colleagues created a version of M. smegmatis that lacked a set of genes known as ESX-3 that are crucial for evading host immunity. The bacteria then was unable to evade the immune systems of host mice.
“Novel therapies for TB are urgently needed, particularly a new and effective vaccine,” William Jacobs, Jr., a professor of microbiology, immunology and genetics at Einstein and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, who led the development of the new vaccine approach and is principal investigator of the NIH grant, said.
The vaccine approach used by the Einstein researchers follows basic studies of how TB bacteria can outwit the immune system.