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Dr. John Quarles and Nancy Arden from the College of Medicine at The Texas A&M University System Health Science Center have worked for the last year and a half with DelSite Biotechnologies, Inc., and colleagues in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University to develop a nasal powder influenza vaccine. DelSite, headquartered in Irving, recently announced the company has been awarded a $6 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to continue preclinical work.
The receipt of this grant appears timely, considering the nationwide shortage of vaccines with the flu season just around the corner. But for Quarles and Arden, who are members of the Medical Microbiology and Immunology Department at the College of Medicine, working with the flu is nothing new. They have both been researching the virus for many years. Now the chance to work on such a large project is rewarding.
"In recent years there has been increasing research in new influenza vaccines. The inactivated vaccine currently in use is not fundamentally different from the first influenza vaccines developed in the 1940s. Although improvements have been made in the purity of the vaccine, it's still not as immunogenic as we'd like it to be, especially in some of the most vulnerable populations. We' re working to develop a vaccine that is easier to administer and more immunogenic," said Arden.
DelSite has developed a vaccine delivery system called GelVac, a powder based on an extract of aloe vera that will be combined with inactivated vaccine antigens.
Administered intranasally, the powder creates a thin film of gel over the mucous membranes, allowing the vaccine to be taken up more slowly by the body. This slower uptake of antigens from the mucous membranes is expected to produce a better immune response than that of the currently licensed inactivated influenza vaccine, which is injected into the muscle.
"The pre-clinical phase of development first shows the vaccine works in animals. Then we start planning to conduct human trials. Bringing a new vaccine or drug to the market can take years, but we are making significant strides. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been pushing for academic entities and private companies to form partnerships, and that's exactly what we've done here," Quarles said.
Approximately $600,000 of the three-year, $6 million grant will be used by Quarles, Arden and their research colleagues to continue conducting pre-clinical tests to study protection against the flu in animals. The remainder of the grant will be utilized by DelSite for product development and toxicology testing.
Founded in 1977, the College of Medicine at the Texas A&M University System's Health Science Center is committed to educating, training and equipping physicians who are compassionate about their patients and dedicated to the communities in which they serve. Located on the Texas A&M University campus, the college utilizes approximately 700 basic scientists and clinicians to instruct students during the course of their medical education. The College of Medicine's primary clinical affiliate is Scott & White Hospital in Temple, which is ranked as one of the top 15 teaching hospitals in the nation.
The Texas A&M University System Health Science Center provides the state with health education, outreach and research. Its five components located in communities throughout Texas are Baylor College of Dentistry, the College of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Institute of Biosciences and Technology and the School of Rural Public Health.
Source: Texas A&M University System Health Science Center