The Boston University School of Medicine's Richard Goldstein, a professor of pediatrics, has been awarded a three-year, $300,000 grant to aid in his research to create a more effective pneumonia vaccine.
The grant was awarded by the Hartwell Foundation, which funds biomedical applied research that shows the potential to benefit children.
Goldstein has worked for decades on unlocking the genetic puzzle that is streptococcus pneumonia, which kills more than one million children worldwide per year.
Over the course of his work, Goldstein has amassed the world's largest collection of streptococcus pneumonia, which lives in the nasal passages.
The microbe is is the most common cause of bacterial meningitis, which is one of the top two bacterial culprits in ear infections.
“The healthy high school football star who dies from meningitis — that’s streptococcus pneumonia,” Goldstein told BU.edu.
The existing vaccine for streptococcus pneumonia - Prevnar - was developed in the late 1990s and prevents infection in only about eight percent of the bacteria's known coating. The vaccine works by inducing antibodies in the immune system that are specific to a target.
Goldstein hopes to take a genetics-based approach to fighting streptococcus pneumonia that would trigger antibodies for all strains of the bacteria. He is attempting to isolate the genes in the bacteria that do not mutate.
Once identified, he can use recombinant genetics to fool the body into specifically defending itself against unvarying targets.