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Texas Vaccine Center Expanding R&D

Vaccine syringe


5 February 2018. A vaccine research center in Galveston, Texas is expanding its operations to add more basic and preclinical studies that lead to clinical trials resulting in more preventive and therapeutic vaccines. The new Sealy Institute for Vaccine Sciences is building on the current Sealy Center for Vaccine Development at University of Texas Medical Branch, or UTMB, at Galveston.

The new institute aims to ramp up research and development of vaccine candidates to meet what it sees as a growing global medical need. “We’ve had a lot of success but there is a need for more funding and more research and development of vaccines that will benefit people all over the world,” says Alan Barrett, professor of pathology and pediatrics at UTMB who is leading the new institute. Barrett adds that the institute aims to “create an environment where scientists can take their idea from discovery to phase 1 clinical trials.” Phase 1 trials are early-stage tests, usually for safety and to verify a drug’s activity in the body.

UTMB says it’s now one of 7 World Health Organization vaccine centers, as well as a designated center of excellence for vaccines to control emerging diseases such as Ebola and Zika. Much of the current work at the Sealy Center for Vaccine Development is conducting clinical trials for industry and academic labs, with the center now recruiting participants for studies of vaccines for dengue, rotavirus, Clostridium difficile, and a new formulation of the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine.

The new institute plans to boost its basic and preclinical work, providing what it calls “robust financial support” over the next 5 years for researchers at UTMB. The institute expects to hold funding competitions for studies of vaccine candidates, with researchers also receiving technical guidance on preparing new vaccines for clinical trials. In addition, the institute plans to support research by and provide internships to students.

Barrett, however, is realistic about the challenge of developing new vaccines, with what UTMB says is now less than 50 vaccines for human disease in the world. “It’s a difficult, time consuming and expensive process to develop a new vaccine,” he notes, “but here at UTMB and at the Institute we are committed to developing a new vaccine in the next decade.” Barrett adds, “The addition of just one vaccine will be a tremendous success story.”

The Sealy and Smith Foundation provides the funding for the Sealy Institute for Vaccine Sciences. The foundation supports health initiatives in Galveston since the 1880s, and funds all or part of 33 endowed academic chairs including a chair in vaccinology, now held by Barrett.

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