Ali Ellebedy, PhD, an associate professor of pathology and immunology, of medicine and of molecular microbiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and Viviana Simon, MD, PhD, a professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, have received a $13 million grant renewal from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support the “Programming Long-lasting Immunity to Coronaviruses (PLUTO)” project. The project will bring together experts from multiple disciplines across five research institutions to create better vaccines to fight against current and emerging coronaviruses.
The goal is to study what enables a strong and long-lasting immune response against coronaviruses. The team will then develop vaccines that offer broad protection against existing and future severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) variants, as well as pandemic, zoonotic (those that can jump from animals to humans), and seasonal coronaviruses responsible for other illnesses.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, 280 million people have been infected with the virus, and it has caused more than 5 million deaths worldwide since late 2019. Although considerable progress has been made to develop interventions to treat and prevent COVID-19, the continued emergence of viral variants with increased transmissibility and resistance to antibody neutralization highlights the urgent need for continued research.
“The assembled team has a track record of success in designing these types of broadly protective universal vaccines, bringing universal influenza vaccine candidates into clinical development. Using the same methods and strategies, we are confident that our PLUTO efforts will result in similar successes,” Ellebedy said.
Read more on the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai website.