Randall Urban, MD
Vice President for Research &
Chief Research Officer

Dr. Randall Urban

Dr. Randall Urban leads a diverse research community in the bold mission to improve medical practice through progressive translational research endeavors. He has 145 peer-review publications, is the Principal Investigator of UTMB's Clinical and Translational Science Award, and has 3 major research interests funded by the NIH and private foundations. In addition to Vice President for Research and Chief Research Officer, Dr. Urban is Vice Dean for Clinical Research in the John Sealy School of Medicine, Professor of Internal Medicine, Director of the Institute for Translational Sciences, and Fellow, John P. McGovern Distinguished Chair in Oslerian Medicine.

Strategic Research Plan

The Strategic Research Plan, which is used by leadership to  develop a path forward through goals, objectives and tactics, has broad input. It includes six integrated health communities that bring together researchers, educators, clinicians and community members to use prevention and treatment to transform illness to health. Read more.

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UTMB Scientists Develop a Vaccine Against Nipah Virus

Scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch have developed a vaccine showing promising protection against Nipah virus, a zoonotic virus that has a mortality rate as high as 70 percent and that is considered to be a pathogen of pandemic potential. The study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists working in the Biosafety Level 4 Lab at the Galveston National Laboratory developed the rapid-acting vaccine using a harmless recombinant Vesicular stomatitis virus vector to deliver a piece of the Nipah virus, the surface glycoprotein, to the cells. This then triggers an immune response, which keeps a memory of the protein to deal with the virus in the future. 

The vaccine was tested on African green monkeys and has shown effective protection against the virus when the vaccine was administered either seven days or three days before exposure. “Our data suggest that this vaccine can help rapidly generate protective immunity in humans against the virus,” said Dr.  Courtney Woolsey, co-lead author of the study.  “This could be utilized as an efficient emergency vaccine to disrupt potential spreading of Nipah disease in an outbreak setting.”

Nipah virus is a type of henipavirus naturally held in fruit bats. The virus can cause illness in pigs and humans, and can be spread to humans from animals, infected food and other people with the virus according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It has been listed as one of the viruses most likely to cause the next pandemic by the World Health Organization. It is an emerging highly lethal zoonotic disease that, like SARS-CoV-2, can be transmitted via respiratory droplets. Single-injection vaccines that rapidly control virus outbreaks are needed.

Currently, there are no vaccines licensed for the prevention of Nipah disease. To date, there are no vaccine approved for humans but at least eight experimental preventive candidate vaccines against henipaviruses have been evaluated in preclinical animal models.