Texas Children's Hospital Awarded Grant to Develop Chagas Disease Vaccine

The Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, also known as the Sabin product development partnership (Sabin PDP), a major research component of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, received a grant of $1.8 million from the Robert J. Kleberg, Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation. The grant will fund accelerated development of the first therapeutic vaccine for Chagas disease in humans, in a development program under the direction of Drs. Peter Hotez, Texas Children's Hospital endowed chair in Tropical Pediatrics, and Maria Elena Bottazzi, deputy director of Sabin PDP.

"Chagas has become a serious health issue especially for the population of South Texas," says Hotez. "Thanks to the support and confidence of the Robert J. Kleberg, Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation, we will be able to speed the research and development needed to create a vaccine for Chagas."

Chagas disease is considered one of the five neglected parasitic infections in the United States, with tens of thousands of cases in Texas alone. The disease is caused by parasitic microorganisms known as trypanosomes that can destroy heart tissue leading to a condition known as Chagasic cardiomyopathy. Insect vectors known as triatomines, or blood sucking bugs, which are widespread throughout Texas, transmit the trypanosome parasite. Of those infected by Chagas, 20 percent to 30 percent will develop Chagastic cardiomyopathy, which can cause heart failure and sudden death. In addition, a large number of pregnant women are also infected with Chagas disease causing thousands of cases of congenital infection. Chagas disease is also an important veterinary problem in Texas especially among dogs in South Texas. The successful development and testing of this therapeutic vaccine will be instrumental in order to improve thousands of lives and save Texans up to hundreds of millions of dollars in healthcare costs. 

A primary focus of the Robert J. Kleberg, Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation is to improve quality of life in South Texas communities. Funding by the Foundation is competitive with a strict set of guidelines for determining if an institution will be awarded a grant. Being awarded funding demonstrates the Foundation's belief that the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children's Center for Vaccine Development will be successful in their research and development, and carry on the vision of Bob and Helen Kleberg in Texas. 

Source: Texas Children's Hospital