Purdue research team receives NIH grant for COVID-19 vaccine development

Image by LuAnn Hunt from Pixabay 

A Purdue University-led research team is taking a cue from the common cold as it works to develop an efficient vaccine for COVID-19.

The team, led by Purdue virologist Suresh Mittal, is using a form of a common cold-like adenovirus as a vaccine platform.

Mittal says the COVID-19 vaccine needs to be highly immunogenic because the human immune system does not have an immune memory against this new virus. His vaccine approach is simple due to the use of a safe version of adenovirus with the capability to induce protective immune responses.

“This platform-based vaccine expresses the important SARS-CoV-2 immunogens that produce an immune response,” says Mittal, Distinguished Professor of Virology in Purdue’s College of Veterinary Medicine and a vaccine researcher in the Department of Comparative Pathobiology. “This type of COVID-19 vaccine provides a balanced antibody and cell-based protection.”

Mittal is collaborating on the research with Dr. Suresh Kuchipudi, clinical professor and associate director of the Animal Diagnostic Lab at Pennsylvania State University; and Dr. Suryaprakash Sambhara, Immunology Laboratory team lead at the Influenza Division of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The research has received a major boost in the form of a five-year, $3.86 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. 

Mittal says it will be critical to have several approaches in order to meet global demand for the COVID-19 vaccine. At present,  there are at least three adenovirus-based COVID-19 vaccines in Phase 2 or 3 clinical trials. More than 160 COVID-19 vaccines are at various stages of development.

Because the elderly are at higher risks of serious complications from COVID-19, Mittal says vaccine development efforts should consider the decline in the immune competence of the elderly. 

“An effective COVID-19 vaccine will flatten the COVID-19 pandemic’s trajectory and its second wave, thus saving lives and the global economy,” Mittal says.

Writer: Kevin Doerr