Huw Davies, Ph.D.
Vaccines have been responsible for the eradication of smallpox and the control of several once common childhood diseases, including measles, whooping cough, polio and diphtheria. Vaccines continue to be the most cost-effective medical intervention against infectious disease, and will become increasingly more important to stem the tide of antibiotic resistance, reduce the burden of disease in poorer countries, and for preparedness against novel emerging pandemics like Covid19. New generation vaccines use the genetic information of the pathogen to design vaccines in a rational way, as apposed to conventional trial-and-error methods. Vaccines against variant pathogens remain a major challenge. The main activity in the lab is to improve influenza vaccines. Current seasonal flu vaccines are poorly immunogenic and only work if the vaccine strains are closely matched against strains in circulation. The formulation has to be adjusted each season to cope with antigenic drift. We are exploring ways to increase the breadth and magnitude of the immune response to recombinant hemagglutinin using multivalent formulations, nanoparticle delivery vehicles, combination adjuvants (mixtures of TLR agonists) and emulsions. Techniques we use are serological profiling by protein microarrays, cytokine profiling in T cell recall assays, in vitro neutralization assays, and efficacy studies in vivo in the mouse model. Similar approaches are being used for the development broadly reactive vaccines against different ebola virus glycoproteins.