November 2010

$10 Million Grant for Flu Vaccine Microneedle Patch

Microneedle patch shown in comparison with a U.S. penny. Emory University. Georgia Institute of Technology, the nonprofit PATH, and Emory University recently received a $10 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for development and Phase I clinical trial investigation of a microneedle delivery technique for influenza vaccine. This method involves placing a patch containing vaccine-coated microneedles on the skin, where the needles and vaccine slowly dissolve. A backing that is left behind can be safely and easily discarded.

Apart from their ease of administration, the patches offer a potential benefit in that they might generate immunity better than traditional influenza vaccine. Influenza vaccination usually involves injecting the vaccine into muscle tissue. But the microneedles deliver vaccine into the skin, where larger numbers of antigen-presenting cells are present. Antigen-presenting cells (APCs) are a key factor in generating immunity: they recognize antigens, ingest them and break them apart, and present the pieces to other immune cells that then neutralize and remember the antigens. Activating larger numbers of APCs could lead to a more robust immune response.

Ioanna Skountzou, co-principal investigator for the project and an assistant professor in Emory University School of Medicine’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology, describes this important potential benefit of the microneedle vaccine delivery technique: “We have seen evidence that the vaccine works even better when administered to the skin because of the plethora of antigen presenting cells which reside there…..This study will allow us to determine how we can optimize the vaccine to take advantage of those cells that are important in generating the body’s immune response.” More

Friday, November 12 Is World Pneumonia Day

Globally, pneumonia remains the most deadly disease for children younger than five. Yet with a combination of vaccination efforts and treatment with antibiotics, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) calls pneumonia "one of the most solvable problems in global health."

As a reminder of the disease's impact and the importance of global efforts to stop preventable deaths from pneumonia, GAVI and a host of other organizations have announced that Friday, November 12, will be the second annual World Pneumonia Day. As part of this effort to raise awareness, the organizing groups have offered several ways for people to get involved, including wearing blue jeans on Friday to raise awareness about pneumonia's impact worldwide (as the organizers put it, "We tried to come up with a painless (and free!) way to communicate that we must pay attention to these preventable deaths. What we came up with is a world-wide blue jean day. The reason is simple: Children who are dying of pneumonia turn blue because they can't breathe") and sending "Pneumonia Grams" to public officials, asking them to consider pneumonia as a priority issue. (See More

Stanley A. Plotkin, MD, Discusses "Four Centuries of Vaccinology" at History of Vaccines Launch Event

Dr. Plotkin discusses global vaccination coverage. The College of Physicians of Philadelphia The College of Physicians of Philadelphia celebrated the official launch of The History of Vaccines website with a lecture by Stanley A. Plotkin, MD, titled "Four Centuries of Vaccinology." Dr. Plotkin, developer of the rubella vaccine now used worldwide, discussed the many discoveries made and challenges overcome by vaccinologists since the development of the first vaccine against smallpox in the late 1700s. His talk, which was also broadcast on the web particularly noted the contributions made to the field of vaccinology by individuals and companies in the Philadelphia region. He discussed the pioneering use of human diploid cells in vaccine development by The Wistar Institute (where he had a laboratory for many years) as well as hopes for future innovations in vaccine development and manufacturing, including advances in genetic engineering and the expansion of vaccine targets to include chronic conditions. More

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Wild Poliovirus Returns to Previously Polio-Free Countries

Increased circulation of polio in Nigeria sparked other outbreaks in 2009. Image © The Global Polio Eradication Initiative. A worldwide program to eradicate polio, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, (GPEI) began in 1988. Since then polio has steadily disappeared from countries around the world, leaving only four with endemic polio by 2006: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan.

Until polio is eradicated, however, all countries remain at risk for imported polio cases--especially those countries with low vaccination rates. In 2009, increased circulation of wild polioviruses in Nigeria led to imported cases and outbreaks in 12 countries in West Central Africa, three of which (in Mali, Mauritania, and Sierra Leone) continued into this year.

Recently the reintroduction of polio into the European region, which has been polio-free since 2002, has also become a concern. In June 2009, the European Regional Commission for the Certification of Poliomyelitis Eradication specifically identified Tajikistan as an area at high risk for polio transmission if wild poliovirus was introduced to the region, particularly because of low immunization rates. In April of this year, wild poliovirus type 1 was identified in stool specimens from individuals with acute flaccid paralysis cases in Tajikistan. As of November 1, 458 laboratory-confirmed cases of wild poliovirus type 1 had been reported in Tajikistan, with 26 deaths, of whom 15 were less than five years old. More

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Live Webcast: "Four Centuries of Vaccinology," by Stanley A. Plotkin, MD

Stanley A. Plotkin, MD Join us for a History of Vaccines launch event. Stanley A. Plotkin, MD, developer of the rubella vaccine in worldwide use today, will deliver a lecture entitled "Four Centuries of Vaccinology" on November 3, at 6:30 pm at The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. View the live webcast by pointing your browser to around 6:30 pm Eastern time, Wednesday, 11/3. (We will remove the password requirement shortly before the webcast.) Or, if you're in Philadelphia, join us at the lecture. See The College of Physicians of Philadelphia's Events Calendar to register for the lecture. More

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