The College of Veterinary Medicine will receive Phase II funding through Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative created by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that enables individuals worldwide to test bold ideas to address persistent health and development challenges.
Ralph A. Tripp, a professor and Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Vaccine and Therapeutic Studies in the infectious diseases department, will lead a team in the pursuit of an innovative global health research project titled “Improved Vaccine Production Technology for Rotavirus Vaccines.”
Tripp’s research team is receiving $1,327,570 to support the project, which involves identifying genes in vaccine cell lines that resist virus replication. This information is then combined with state-of-the-art gene editing technologies to create a new generation of high-performance rotavirus vaccine manufacturing cell lines capable of sustained vaccine production at increased titers.
“As we demonstrated in our Phase I polio program, also funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, single gene modulation events can enhance virus production by greater than 20-fold in cell lines currently employed in vaccine production,” Tripp said. “In our next study, we will advance our innovative Phase I studies by demonstrating the applicability of this technology to a second vaccine-preventable disease, rotavirus. Rotavirus is the leading cause of acute gastroenteritis, which leads to severe diarrhea and vomiting. It is responsible for more than 500,000 deaths per year in children younger than 5 years old.”
In 2011, Tripp was awarded a Phase I grant to test his theory that an enhanced poliovirus vaccine cell line could be created by silencing specific virus-resistant genes. The recent Accelerated Grand Challenges Explorations Phase II grant acknowledges the successes of the polio vaccine cell line program and offers a new avenue to provide affordable vaccine coverage worldwide through continued transition of genomics discoveries into the applied fields of biomanufacturing.
Led by Tripp, the project team is comprised of members of an academic-industrial-government consortium that includes UGA, Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute in Victoria, Australia, which is where rotavirus was discovered in 1973.