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Vaccino bacteriophage T4 (prof Venigalla Rao)

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Messaggio Da Gex Ven 14 Gen - 22:02

Il prof Venigalla Rao sta sviluppando un Vaccino basato sul bacteriophage T4, grazie ad un finanziamento della fondazione Bill e Melinda Gates.

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Biology Prof. Receives Grant for HIV Vaccine

By Alex Carrion


Published: Friday, January 14, 2011

Updated: Friday, January 14, 2011 15:01



CUA Biology professor Venigalla Rao was recently awarded $100,000 to develop a vaccine against the HIV virus. The grant was awarded to Rao and his team by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through the office of Sponsored Programs and Research Services (OSP) at CUA.

This grant is far from the first that Professor Rao has received at CUA. Over the last six years, Rao has accrued more than $9 million for research in many other biology projects from donors such as the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation. This newest grant has been donated by the Grand Challenges Explorations in Global Health Program division of Gates Foundation.

"Basically, what they are looking for is very innovative ideas that have a lot of risk, but potentially because of that they have a lot of reward," said Ralph Albano, Director of the OSP.

HIV is a notoriously difficult virus to eradicate. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in the United States there are 56,300 new infections each year.

"There are many reasons [for this]," Professor Rao explained. "One of the reasons is that HIV has numerous strains. It has a very high mutation rate.... people create many antibodies that could be very effective against HIV, but then a new HIV strain could be selected, and the immunity will not work against the new HIV strain."

Because HIV attacks white blood cells, this cycle of infection and immune response continues until the immune system is too weak to fight off the infection anymore and collapses. This same high mutation rate prevents any conventional vaccine from effectively eliminating the virus.

The vaccine that Rao's team at CUA has developed utilizes a benign virus known as bacteriophage T4, which Rao's team discovered has a particularly malleable structure that makes it susceptible to genetic alteration.

Rao hopes to bind specific proteins of HIV's DNA and protein coat to both the inside and the outer shell of the altered virus. If picked up successfully by white blood cells, antibodies can be developed that target elements common to all HIV strains. To encourage this process, Rao plans to use special targeting molecules that deliver these DNA packages directly to the white blood cells that produce antibodies.

Rao was quick to clarify that though he has high hopes for this project, his research is far from over. "When you inject [medicine] into an animal, for example, or a human being, we have no control…. You can target, it will bind, but will it actually go inside, to cross the barrier and go into the cell and deliver the whole package of DNA? That's a big barrier that people have been working on for years."

Rao plans to be able to develop his vaccine by next year, but added that "HIV is a different beast, so to speak. We really have to bring all our power into this to be as efficient as we can to hopefully develop an efficient vaccine because no one has been able to generate any vaccine that is broadly so effective."

Should his initial tests show progress, Rao's project could receive further funding reaching up to $1 million from the Gates Foundation next year.

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