NIH Awards $6 Million Grant for Hepatitis C Vaccine

Research team will seek to develop a novel prophylactic vaccine to prevent HCV.

The Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research (IBBR) at the University of Maryland was recently awarded a $6 million grant to develop a hepatitis C virus (HCV) vaccine, according to a press release.

The research will be conducted over a 5-year period, as investigators examine the efficacy of immune responses in animal models using its HCV vaccine candidates to determine which candidate has the highest efficacy in protecting against most HCV genotypes.

The grant is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and will be a collaboration between IBBR’s Structure-Based Vaccine Design (SBVD) team and Steven Foung, MD, a professor at Stanford University School of Medicine.

The SBVD team is a multi-disciplinary group consisting of scientists from the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP), and the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB).

“IBBR’s mission is to conduct ground-breaking research that provides solutions to major medical problems important to society through interdisciplinary collaboration,” Thomas Fuerst, PhD, principal investigator of the award and director of IBBR, said in a release. “The SBVD team is one example of several programs at the Institute engaged in novel vaccine development, next generation protein therapeutics, and macromolecular drug delivery technologies that have done an excellent job in working together across the scientific disciplines and campuses. This is a perfect example of our mission and what we are trying to accomplish at IBBR.”

Initially, the project used funds from the MPowering the State initiative. MPower is a strategic partnership between UMCP and UMB and is designed to expand research collaborations, promote innovation and impact, and leverage the research strengths across the campuses to fill unmet medical and public health needs, according to the release.

“We are proud to see results from MPower’s investments in multiple, high-impact projects at IBBR,” Mary Ann Rankin, senior vice president and provost, UMPCP, and co-leader of MPower, said in a release. “As the premier translational science institute for the University of Maryland, IBBR’s mission focuses on excellence in science and engineering that provides solutions to global medical and public health needs. Bringing together both UMCP and UMB faculty is the sine qua non of research excellence and its application, and these efforts facilitate commercialization and economic development for the State of Maryland.”

Dr Fuerst added, “We are thankful to the NIH and MPower for their continued support to the Institute and its translational mission.”

Currently, an estimated 185 million individuals worldwide have HCV, with 3 to 4 million new infections each year. HCV, which is linked to liver diseases and cancer, accounts for more deaths in the United States than HIV and all other infectious diseases combined.