KU receives $6 million contract for vaccine research

A $6.85 million contract from the National Institutes of Health will help Kansas University researchers study ways to safely deliver vaccines.

The study will focus on adjuvants, agents added to a vaccine that cause it to be more effective by triggering responses in the human immune system.

“It has great promise for increasing the potency of vaccines,” said Susan Sloop, associate director of the Higuchi Biosciences Center at KU.

Only one such additive — an aluminum mixture called alum — is currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Sloop said, creating the potential for improvement in the area.

She said that while adjuvants add to the effectiveness of a vaccine, they also have the potential to increase side effects, something that KU researchers will try to limit. The additives have been associated with inflammation, which can cause injury.

Sunil David is leading the project at KU, along with Apurba Dutta — both are associate professors of medicinal chemistry. Successful new adjuvants could be marketed in the future, benefiting both KU and patients.

The five-year award given to KU is one of six awarded to universities across the country. A group of KU researchers from multiple fields including medicinal chemistry, genomics and mass spectrometry will assist with the project.