The University of Maryland School of Medicine's Center for Vaccine Development (CVD) has received a $4 million Strategic Translation Award from the prestigious Wellcome Trust to support a collaboration with Bharat Biotech for clinical development of a new conjugate vaccine to prevent the potentially lethal infectious disease caused by invasive non-typhoidal salmonella.
Strains of non-typhoidal salmonella (NTS) that can cause systemic disease such as meningitis or sepsis are particularly common in sub-Saharan Africa where approximately 20 to 30 percent of children with such invasive infections die.
The CVD has brought in significant grant funding over the past few decades to support its extensive vaccine development programs, but this recent achievement of Wellcome Trust funding holds special significance.
"It's an imprimatur," says Myron "Mike" Levine, MD, DTPH (pictured), the Simon and Bessie Grollman Distinguished Professor of Medicine and CVD director, "because of the prestige associated with the Trust's involvement, the rigorous vetting process, and the opportunity for the University of Maryland, in collaboration with Bharat, to bring forth a potentially life-saving vaccine for a very underserved population."
"The University of Maryland School of Medicine and its Center for Vaccine Development have a premier research program with a prominent global presence," says E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland and John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and dean of the School of Medicine. "The Wellcome Trust award validates the CVD's extraordinary efforts to develop life-saving vaccines through groundbreaking research that continues to bring hope to millions of people worldwide."
The Wellcome Trust will provide $4 million to support a multi-year project to accelerate the development of CVD's conjugate NTS vaccine, including initial clinical trials to be conducted here at the University of Maryland beginning in three years.
"Such a comprehensive award that will fund translational research from the preclinical to clinical phases is not common" says James L. Hughes, MBA, chief enterprise and economic development officer and vice president, "so the University is particularly pleased to see this type of support for CVD's promising work."
Under the direction of Levine, the CVD has earned an international reputation for creating and testing vaccines against numerous bacterial diseases, such as cholera and typhoid fever, which afflict both patients in less-developed countries and also travelers to those areas.
In order to manufacture the NTS conjugate vaccine at the scale and of the quality necessary for use in clinical trials, CVD sought the expertise of an established vaccine manufacturer, Bharat Biotech International Ltd (BBIL). Levine believes that BBIL brings critical expertise as CVD's project partner in terms of conjugate vaccine development and manufacturing. Krishna Ella, MD, BBIL's chairman and managing director, says "the impact and importance of academic and industry partnership is far reaching - we look forward to our partnership with CVD." "This project is a testimony of our belief in collaborative research and our commitment to introduce highly effective and affordable vaccine to solve region-specific neglected diseases in the developing world."
Phil Robilotto, DO, MBA, the University of Maryland's assistant vice president of technology transfer, adds, "This project is a milestone for the University of Maryland as it represents a true translational public-private partnership that not only enables potentially life-saving vaccine technology to move toward the marketplace and to the public health arena, but also demonstrates the University's ability to successfully undertake international multi-party technology transfer collaborations to help advance its science."