BLACKSBURG, VA, March 19, 2002 -- The Commonwealth Technology Research Fund has awarded a total of $3.6 million to Virginia Tech and two other universities to support collaborative work on mucosal immunology. Research will take place at the medical schools of the University of Virginia (UVa) and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) as well as on the Virginia Tech campus.
The $1.8 million dollar research program at Virginia Tech will be directed toward developing plant expressed antigens and adjuvants to be used to create edible or nasally delivered vaccines. Antigens are substances that, when introduced into the body, stimulate the production of protective antibodies. Adjuvants are immunological agents that increase the antigenic response.
UVa will study the mechanisms of regulation of mucosal immune responses. VCU will apply genomics and informatics technology to discover potential targets for intervention through immunotherapy or chemotherapy. In addition, partnership with the biotechnology companies Crop Tech and TechLab will permit application of research findings to the treatment of human diseases.
Virginia Tech is a recognized leader in plant and animal transgenics as a means of producing complex proteins for medical, veterinary, and industrial applications. Craig Nessler, head of the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science (PPWS) at Virginia Tech, and Fabricio Medina-Bolivar, a researcher at the Fralin Biotechnology Center, developed their portion of the CTRF proposal as an outgrowth of an ongoing NIH-funded collaborative project with UVa headed by Tracy Wilkins, director of the Fralin Biotechnology Center at Virginia Tech, and Carole Cramer, professor of PPWS.
"The idea is to deliver inexpensive vaccines in a form that doesn't require sophisticated medical facilities and equipment," Nessler says. "By focusing on how to produce immunogenic proteins plants, we hope to find ways to stimulate the plant
Contact: Craig Nessler