Eva Lee JoinsTeam at Emory's New Ctr for Systems Vaccinology

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Eva Lee Joins Interdisciplinary Team at Emory's New Center for Systems Vaccinology

Eva K. Lee, professor in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Georgia Tech and director of the Center for Operations Research in Medicine and HealthCare, joins a highly integrated and interdisciplinary team conducting research in the newly established Center for Systems Vaccinology at Emory University.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health awarded a five-year, $15.5 million grant to the Emory Vaccine Center at Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta. Scientists in the new Center will employ the modern analytic tools of systems biology to understand the immune responses vaccines stimulate in humans and will use this knowledge to guide design of vaccines against HIV, malaria and other global pandemics

Bali Pulendran, the Charles Howard Candler professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Emory University, the Emory Vaccine Center, and Yerkes Research Center, is principal investigator of the center. Rafi Ahmed, director of the Emory Vaccine Center and a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar, will serve as co-principal investigator.

Lee and other researchers at the center will address a major challenge thus far in the development of vaccines - that the effectiveness of vaccination can only be ascertained after vaccinated individuals have been exposed to infection. To study vaccine-induced immunity in humans, they will use a multidisciplinary approach Pulendran developed, which involves immunology, genomics and bioinformatics to predict the immunity of a vaccine without exposing individuals to infection.

Researchers working in the new Center for Systems Vaccinology will determine whether Pulendran's approach can be used to predict the effectiveness of other vaccines, including common vaccines against influenza, pneumococcal disease and shingles. The ability to successfully predict the immunity and efficacy of vaccines would facilitate the rapid evaluation of new and emerging vaccines and the identification of individuals who are unlikely to be protected by a vaccine.

The team's initial work will focus on two major projects on innate immunity and adaptive immunity that ultimately will facilitate vaccine development in several ways: (1) by enabling a strategy to prospectively predict the immunogenicity of vaccines; (2) by offering new and fundamental insights into the genes, cells and networks that orchestrate vaccine-induced immunity in the young and elderly; and (3) by facilitating the generation of an open access database of vaccine-induced molecular signatures.

The Center's interdisciplinary team comprises researchers and clinicians in areas as diverse as immunology, vaccinology, clinical medicine, computational modeling, and mathematics. In addition to Lee, the team includes Nick Haining (Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Boston), Shankar Subramaniam (University of California, San Diego), Alex Sette (La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, La Jolla), Mark Mulligan (Hope Clinic, Emory Vaccine Center,; and Myron Levine and Adriana Weinberg (University of Colorado, Denver).

Lee, along with Haining and Subramaniam, co-direct the "Genomics and Computational Biology" core of the initiative. The Core will provide expertise, analysis, and experimental platforms to systematically interrogate the immune response to the inactivated trivalent influenza vaccine, the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine, and the live attenuated varicella-zoster vaccine. Two major goals in this Core involve development of gene expression-based predictors of vaccine response in humans and use of genomic techniques as discovery tools to better understand the innate and adaptive immune response to vaccines.

Support for the first year of the Center initiative will come from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).


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