Albert B. Sabin Vaccine Institute Signs Agreement with GW Medical Center for Collaboration on $18 Million Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Research Grant
Grant to Support Groundbreaking Work on Hookworm Vaccine Research
Raymond MacDougall, Publications Director
George Washington University Medical Center
WASHINGTON -- The George Washington University Medical Center (GWUMC) has signed an agreement with the Albert B. Sabin Vaccine Institute to collaborate on hookworm vaccine research supported by an $18 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The grant will help fund research in GWUMC's Department of Microbiology and Tropical Medicine focused on finding a vaccine to combat this disease that affects a billion people globally with debilitating long-term symptoms. Lead researcher on the project is Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, newly appointed chair of the department, and internationally recognized medical parasitologist.
Hookworms (genus Ancylostoma) are blood-feeding parasites that infect people of all ages, but are particularly devastating in children, draining them of their healthy growth and vigor. The World Health Organization and World Bank report that hookworm and allied diseases are leading causes of childhood and maternal disability in the developing world. Dr. Hotez is working on identifying vaccine candidates obtained in the laboratory through cutting-edge genetic techniques. He has identified a class of antigens from the infective stages of the parasite that offers great promise in eliciting vaccine immunity.
"This research award is a great boost to the efforts Dr. Hotez and his research team have begun and we are very enthusiastic about the progress on a hookworm vaccine that will be made here at The George Washington University Medical Center," said John F. "Skip" Williams, MD, MPH, EdD, vice president for health affairs and dean, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and Bloedorn Professor of Administrative Medicine. Frederick Rickles, MD, associate vice president for health research, compliance, and technology transfer, added that "Peter Hotez is engaged in novel research with a global impact. This award makes it possible for the research on a hookworm vaccine to continue to advance in a very promising direction."
The Department of Microbiology and Tropical Diseases is venturing in a new direction since the recent appointment of Dr. Hotez as department chair. He comes to GWUMC from Yale University following a nationwide search and will be joined in the department by a number of researchers who have been working with him on vaccine development. Dr. Hotez is breaking new ground in the molecular biology and epidemiology of diseases caused by parasitic helminths, or worm parasites, and the development of vaccines that combat them. This research makes the department unique in its scope, as it seeks to develop new vaccines and drugs for previously neglected diseases in developing countries.
H.R. "Shep" Shepherd, chairman of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Phillip K. Russell, MD, founding president and advisor to the chairman, are both pleased with the designation of GWUMC as the site for this important research. According to Mr. Shepherd,
"A vaccine is the only realistic way to protect all people from this parasite. No single sector—academia, government, industry, or philanthropy—can develop a vaccine alone." The Sabin Vaccine Institute draws on expertise and resources from each sector to translate scientific knowledge about hookworm antigens into a real world product that helps people lead healthier lives.
The Sabin Vaccine Institute's mission is to save lives by stimulating development of new vaccines and by increasing immunization rates. It was founded in 1993 and named for Albert B. Sabin, developer of the oral polio vaccine that has been at the heart of the worldwide effort to eradicate polio. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is dedicated to improving people's lives by sharing advances in health and learning with the global community. Preventing disease among poor children by expanding access to vaccines, and developing vaccines against malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis, are central priorities.
"The GW–Sabin partnership offers an unprecedented opportunity to tackle a major global health problem; one that destroys the quality of life in developing countries," said Dr. Hotez.
The George Washington University Medical Center is an internationally recognized interdisciplinary academic health center which has consistently provided high quality medical care in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area for 176 years. The Medical Center comprises the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, the 11th oldest medical school in the country; the School of Public Health and Health Services, the only such school in the nation's capital; GW Hospital, jointly owned and operated by a partnership between The George Washington University and Universal Health Services, Inc.; GW Medical Faculty Associates, an independent faculty practice plan; and, the GW Health Plan, a 26-year-old health maintenance organization serving nearly 80,000 members. For more information on GWUMC, visit the website.