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McMaster University researchers race to SARS vaccine development

Hamilton, ON (October 1, 2003) -- Researchers at McMaster University have turned a corner in the race to develop a vaccine for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

A breakthrough has come with the work by professor Jim Mahony who cloned the gene that marks an important nuclear protein of the SARS virus. A research team at McMaster then inserted the nuclear protein gene into an engineered common cold virus, or adenovirus vector, and will shortly test this in animals for the protective effects.

The team, headed by Jack Gauldie, chair of the department of pathology and molecular medicine and director of the Centre for Gene Therapeutics, includes professors Frank Graham, Mary Hitt and Mahony of the department of pathology and molecular medicine, along with professor Ludvik Prevec and technologist Uma Sankar of the department of biology.

Mahony's discovery was made using DNA sequence data from the SARS Vaccine Initiative (SAVI) of the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, one of several laboratories the McMaster team is working with to develop a SARS vaccine based on the adenovirus vector that would act as a carrier within the body.

The McMaster group is also working with the SARS Initiative of the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) and the National Centres of Excellence in Vaccine and Immunotherapy (CANVAC).

"This is an important step that will allow us to immediately determine whether we can provide protection against this virus with proper immunization," said Gauldie.

Dr. Mark Loeb, director of the Canadian SARS Research Network, says the discovery is an excellent next step in the development of a SARS vaccine.

"SARS is a deadly disease, particularly dangerous to those with compromised health," said Loeb, who is also an infectious disease specialist at McMaster University. "The development of a vaccine is important in ensuring Canadians are better protected against a reoccurrence of the
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Contact: Veronica McGuire
vmcguir@mcmaster.ca
905-525-9140 (22169)
McMaster University
1-Oct-2003


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