Scripps Research scientists receive $12 million for malaria and flu vaccine research

LA JOLLA, CA – May 2, 2018 – Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute aim to improve flu and malaria vaccines with the support of a new $12 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

With the funding, the Scripps Research team will expand their studies of antibodies that can neutralize many strains of malaria and influenza. Past Scripps Research studies have shown these "broadly neutralizing antibodies" can serve as guides for designing promising vaccine candidates against influenza, AIDS and other diseases.

The World Health Organization estimates that malaria killed 445,000 people in 2016, the last year when data was reported. Influenza also remains a global killer–up to 650,000 people die each year from seasonal flu.

The grant will be administered by Ian Wilson, DPhil, DSc, Hansen Professor of Structural Biology at Scripps Research and chair of the Department of Integrative Structural and Computational Biology, who has studied influenza since 1977. Wilson and his colleagues have analyzed the structures of possible influenza vaccine candidates with the potential to eliminate the need for an annual flu shot.

"We want to apply the methodologies and expertise that we have accumulated over many years at TSRI for HIV and other pathogens to investigate malaria and help design a more effective and longer lasting flu vaccine," says Wilson.

Co-leading the study is Dennis Burton, PhD, chair of Scripps Research's Department of Immunology and Microbiology, and scientific director of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) Neutralizing Antibody Center and of the National Institutes of Health's Center for HIV/AIDS Vaccine Immunology and Immunogen Discovery (CHAVI-ID). Co-investigators include professors Andrew Ward, PhD, and William Schief, PhD. The malaria research component of the project is also part of a larger collaboration across several institutions.

"We have a great team here at Scripps Research for rational design of vaccines, and we look forward to taking on malaria and flu with this generous funding from the Gates Foundation," says Burton.

The number of the grant is OPP1170236.

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About The Scripps Research Institute

The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) is one of the world's largest independent, not-for-profit organizations focusing on research in the biomedical sciences. TSRI is internationally recognized for its contributions to science and health, including its role in laying the foundation for new treatments for cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, hemophilia, and other diseases. An institution that evolved from the Scripps Metabolic Clinic founded by philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps in 1924, the institute now employs more than 2,500 people on its campuses in La Jolla, CA, and Jupiter, FL, where its renowned scientists–including two Nobel laureates and 20 members of the National Academies of Science, Engineering or Medicine–work toward their next discoveries. The institute's graduate program, which awards PhD degrees in biology and chemistry, ranks among the top ten of its kind in the nation. In October 2016, TSRI announced a strategic affiliation with the California Institute for Biomedical Research (Calibr), representing a renewed commitment to the discovery and development of new medicines to address unmet medical needs. For more information, see http://www.scripps.edu.

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