Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology

Infectious disease causes 35 percent of deaths worldwide, and is the world’s biggest killer of children and young adults. Our researchers are focused on basic bacterial and viral infectious disease processes as well as the design and use of vaccines and protein therapeutics to combat infectious diseases. These include newly emerging pathogens and potential biological warfare agents. We are devising new and effective ways of producing advanced vaccines and therapeutics, methods include the use of recombinant attenuated bacteria and viruses as well as genetically modified plants, and transferring this technology to the developing world to help fight diseases.

Accomplishing our goals requires the creation and evaluation of novel bio-manufacturing systems for cost-effective production of vaccines and therapeutics and the development and implementation of new strategies for translation of this research into health benefits for the developing world.

Our center’s research efforts seek to understand the mechanisms of host-pathogen interactions leading to disease as well as latency and induction versus evasion/suppression of mucosal, systemic and cellular immunities. By identifying and characterizing protective antigens from established and emerging pathogens, and by modifying them to enhance induction of optimal immune responses, researchers are able to evolve mechanisms for producing and delivering vaccines using plants and attenuated live bacteria and viruses.

Our researchers also seek to establish the cellular and systemic mechanisms by which animal and human hosts respond immunologically to pathogens and to vaccines. The researchers’ goal is to combine these efforts in several different methods of vaccine delivery to develop heterologous prime boost vaccines to enhance productivity of agriculturally important farm animals and to improve human health throughout the world.

Our researchers are also involved in a project aimed at making key advances in utilizing photosynthetic bacteria as a source of biofuel.  We recently made a significant advance in this area.