VIDO-InterVac researcher receives CIHR Operating Grant
Feb 16, 2012
Dr. Sylvia van den Hurk recently received a CIHR operating grant of almost three quarters of a million dollars ($739,443) over 5 years to conduct experiments aimed at understanding the role of dendritic cells in the responses to respiratory syncytial virus RSV infection and vaccination and to develop and characterize the RSV fusion protein as a safe and effective subunit vaccine. Respiratory infections are a significant cause of illness and death in children and in the elderly. Amongst all viruses involved in respiratory disease, RSV is the leading cause of brochiolitis and viral pneumonia in infants and young children, resulting in the hospitalization of up to 2% of children in their first year of life. There is no RSV vaccine. Vaccine development is challenging as newborn infants, who constitute the major target group, are not only prone to infections, they also develop weak immune responses to most conventional vaccines. Dendritic cells are the immune cells responsible for initiating the immune response to infection and vaccination.
The overall objective of this project is to understand the role of dendritic cells in the responses to RSV infection and vaccination and to develop and characterize the RSV fusion protein as a safe and effective subunit vaccine. As subunit vaccines need additional components for full efficacy, we generated a novel vaccine formulation and delivery method, which very effectively stimulate the immune system, not only systemically but also in the respiratory tract. This system will be used for development of a RSV fusion protein-based vaccine that is effective and safe in infants and young children. Such a vaccine will result in lower morbidity and mortality, and reduced long-term problems such as asthma, in all age groups, but particularly in newborn infants.