SFU Molecular Biologist Pursues 'Promising' New Way To Fight Disease

Jamie Scott's quest for a new way to vaccinate against disease, including AIDS, has won her a $96,000 (Cdn) grant from the Medical Research Council of Canada and, more recently, a $150,000 (U.S.) grant from the National Institutes of Health's AIDS Innovation Grant program for approaches in HIV vaccine research.

Scott, a molecular biology professor at Simon Fraser University, has centered her career's research on the human immune response to disease. Her research into antibodies, the molecules in the bloodstream responsible for our body's 'immune memory,' has revealed a promising new way to create a vaccine that can stimulate the body to produce just the two or three antibodies that are most effective at preventing a virus like HIV-1, the AIDS virus, from attacking the body.

A traditional vaccine against AIDS would use a 'shotgun' approach, stimulating the body to produce all possible antibodies against HIV-1, instead of producing only the most effective antibodies for fighting the virus.

Scott's novel vaccine concept combines her research into peptides (small protein molecules that bind tightly to antibodies) and Austrian and Californian research that has discovered three human antibodies that each kill a broad spectrum of the HIV-1 strains that cause AIDS. Working with two of the antibodies, Scott has obtained for each, a peptide that binds specifically and tightly to it, 'mimicking' the viral site to which its corresponding antibody normally binds.

She plans to use these 'peptide mimics' to prepare a vaccine that will stimulate the body to produce the two HIV-1 killing antibodies. Then, if the AIDS virus enters the body, these antibodies will be there to prevent the infection.

"This vaccine approach should produce an unbelievably focused antibody response compared to that produced by the more traditional whole virus or subunit vaccines," says Scott, who also points out that such vaccines have so far

Contact: Marianne Meadahl
Simon Fraser University

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