Money Granted to Study New Vaccines That Target Immune Cells More Precisely

Feb. 22, 2024
Sharan Bobbala of West Virginia University will run a two-year study to determine how the approach works

A researcher at West Virginia University is launching a study to attempt to make vaccines more effective by reaching the interior or intercellular level of immune cells, which would allow for a lower dosage and protection against evolving viruses.

Sharan Bobbala, assistant professor in the WVU School of Pharmacy, has been awarded $323,000 to explore “how lipid nanoparticles can precisely deliver adjuvants – the molecules in vaccines that stimulate the immune system – to white blood cells.” These nanoparticles have “the unique natural ability to target immune cells.”

Bobbala is hopeful that delivery of these adjuvants with greater precision “may allow enhanced and more durable immune responses with lower vaccine doses.” In theory, this approach will “help in achieving broadened antibody responses, which means vaccines will be effective against pathogens that show significant antigenic drift, strain variations, or both.” This would be a more cost effective approach to vaccination and would also “improve global supply.”

Antigenic drift occurs when “a virus changes slightly over time to produce a new strain the immune system does not recognize,” which is what “causes people to get the flu more than once,” for example. Certain rhinoviruses and HIV are also known to produce an antigenic drift.

The nanoparticle delivery platform for this study will be similar to the one used for COVID-19 mRNA vaccines.

Bobbala stresses that the combination of adjuvants in each vaccine “will need to be tuned for each disease based on the type of immune response required.” Thus, he will “develop and optimize single- and multi-adjuvanted nanoparticle formulations and monitor their immune stimulation abilities” over the course of the two year study.

WVU’s website has the release.