UTMB establishes institute to lead research, development of vaccines

Feb 23, 2018, 16:20 PM by Raul Reyes
Vaccine Needle Spread

Vaccine research and development will expand at UTMB with the creation of the Sealy Institute for Vaccine Sciences.

The institute, supported by The Sealy & Smith Foundation and approved by The University of Texas System, will help fund and further guide the development of preventive and therapeutic vaccines at UTMB.

The institute will expand the successful, nationally and internationally recognized Sealy Center for Vaccine Development, which was established at UTMB in 2001.

UTMB is one of only seven World Health Organization vaccine centers in the world and one of only two in the United States. It is also home to a designated center of excellence regarding vaccines for emerging diseases, including Ebola and Zika. UTMB has an established, highly successful vaccine clinical trials program that has supported numerous clinical trials sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and industry. Most recently, UTMB and the Sealy Center for Vaccine Development partnered with Nature Publishing Group to launch a new leading vaccine journal.

Barrett, Alan“We’ve had a lot of success but there is a need for more funding and more research and development of vaccines that will benefit people all over the world,” said Dr. Alan Barrett, the director of the institute and the first holder of the John Sealy Distinguished University Chair in Vaccinology. “The objective of the Sealy Institute for Vaccine Sciences is to further enhance the international reputation of vaccine sciences at UTMB and create an environment where scientists can take their idea from discovery to phase I clinical trials.”

Advancing a vaccine candidate beyond basic research and into clinical trials will be one of the Institute’s main goals, Barrett said. There are less than 50 vaccines for human disease in the world, but the threat from and the spread of emerging diseases continues to grow.

“The addition of just one vaccine will be a tremendous success story,” Barrett said.

To expedite the work on vaccine candidates, the institute plans to provide robust financial support over the next five years to UTMB researchers as part of a university-wide competition. The institute will review vaccine candidate proposals submitted by researchers, and the most promising candidate will secure funding and receive guidance to get a vaccine candidate ready for clinical trials.

“It’s a difficult, time-consuming and expensive process to develop a new vaccine, but here at UTMB and at the Institute we are committed to developing a new vaccine in the next decade,” Barrett said.

Along with the increase in funding for research, plans also include increased opportunities for students interested in focusing on vaccine research at UTMB as well as expansion of vaccinology internship activities and the clinical trials program.

“We are extremely proud of the vaccine work Dr. Barrett and others have done at UTMB and expect that more great work benefiting our country and the world will come from the Sealy Institute for Vaccine Sciences,” said Dr. Danny Jacobs, executive vice president and provost and dean of the School of Medicine. “Vaccines already prevent the deaths of millions of people around the globe and more could someday benefit from the efforts made by institute members under Dr. Barrett’s leadership and by the outstanding support of The Sealy & Smith Foundation.”