Governor’s office awards $2 million in CARES Act funding to a UI-ISU research team for COVID-19 vaccine development

Dr. Legge  Dr. Perlman  Dr. Waldschmidt  Dr. Narasimham

Governor Kim Reynolds has awarded $2 million dollars in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (or CARES) Act funding to a combined research team at the University of Iowa and Iowa State University to pursue development of a next generation COVID-19 vaccine. The UI team is led by Dr. Kevin Legge (Pathology) and includes Dr. Thomas Waldschmidt (Pathology) and Dr. Stanley Perlman (Microbiology and Immunology). The ISU team is led by Dr. Balaji Narasimhan, Professor of Chemical & Biological Engineering and Director of the Nanovaccine Institute centered on the ISU campus.

For several years, Drs. Legge, Narasimhan and Waldschmidt have been developing a new vaccine platform against respiratory infections based on nanotechnology. The goal is to deliver vaccine payloads into the respiratory track via nanoparticles introduced through the nose. This approach is needle free, refrigeration free and does not involve live (attenuated) virus. The latter is key since nanovaccines of this nature can be given to recipients of all ages. Importantly, the UI-ISU team has demonstrated this approach to be successful with influenza leading to the promise of a ‘universal’ flu vaccine. The same nanotechnology is now being applied to SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19.

The various areas of expertise each team member brings to the project was key to the Governor’s award. Dr. Legge is a long-standing expert in T cell responses after infection with pulmonary viruses. Dr. Waldschmidt is expert in B cell and antibody responses after infection with the same pulmonary viruses. Dr. Perlman is a leading authority in Coronavirus infections and has generated essential experimental tools to test the efficacy of potential vaccines. Dr. Narasimhan is a leader in the field of nanoengineering and has developed unique nanoparticle technology central to the team’s vaccine development.

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Monday, November 9, 2020