Biomedical researcher gets $1.9 million to study influenza vaccines and cross protective immunity


Credit: Georgia State University

ATLANTA–Dr. Sang-Moo Kang, professor in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences at Georgia State University, has renewed a four-year, $1.9 million federal grant to develop influenza vaccines that offer enhanced protection against a broad range of influenza virus strains.

This is the second grant renewal from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health. The project will explore novel approaches to improve the cross protective properties of licensed seasonal influenza vaccines, with results expected to be applicable to the clinic and have a significant impact on public health.

Dr. Richard Plemper, a professor in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences, will be a co-investigator for the research project.

Influenza, a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses, can cause mild to severe illness and even lead to death. Influenza vaccines, such as inactivated split virus vaccines and live attenuated influenza virus vaccines, that are based on immunity to the hemagglutinin (HA) hypervariable protein, do not provide effective cross protection against new influenza virus strains that develop through changes in the virus' genes as it replicates over time. Developing a novel vaccine that improves the efficacy and extent of cross protection is a high priority.

"With this project, we've proposed groundbreaking approaches to increase the capacity of current influenza vaccine platforms to give cross protection against new influenza virus strains," Kang said. "We will achieve this by incorporating M2e epitopes, which are found among all influenza strains, into HA and engineering a M2e-HA molecule."

This project has three aims. First, the researchers will test the hypothesis that recombinant seasonal inactivated split virus vaccines and live attenuated influenza virus vaccines with M2e-HA molecules will enhance the efficacy of cross protection by inducing immunity to M2e and HA.

Secondly, the research team will study recombinant influenza virus vaccines and investigate the role of cellular and humoral immune mechanisms in cross protection in mice. Lastly, the researchers will validate the efficacy of cross protection by recombinant influenza virus vaccines in ferrets, the most relevant small-animal model for the assessment of influenza vaccines, in collaboration with a team led by Dr. Ian York at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

An abstract of the grant, 2R01AI093772-07A1, is available at NIH's Project RePORTer website.

For more information about the Institute for Biomedical Sciences, visit


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