NIH grants up to $70M to develop vaccine adjuvants

The National Institutes of Health has forged 7 research agreements with academic and industry partners aimed at identifying new adjuvant candidates that could be used in vaccines to boost immune responses against various pathogens.

The contracts, which could total up to $70 million over 5 years, are with Boston Children's Hospital, Australian firm Vaxine PTY, GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) Corixa Corporation, Duke University, Oregon Health & Science University, University of Kansas and University of California, San Diego.

Used to make vaccines more effective, adjuvants can help enhance the protective effects of immunization for people who would otherwise not respond well to vaccines, such as infants, the elderly and immunocompromised people. Adjuvants also have the potential to help create vaccines againsts diseases for which no vaccines currently exist.

Dr. Daniel Rotrosen--Courtesy of NIH

"We expect that this research will expand the adjuvant pipeline and contribute to the development of new and improved vaccines against infectious diseases," said Dr. Daniel Rotrosen, director of the Division of Allergy, Immunology and Transplantation under NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "With this new round of awards, we have expanded the research scope of our program to compounds that indirectly and directly stimulate adaptive immunity."

Aluminum gels or aluminum salts, which have been used for more than 70 years in a number of vaccines, are the only vaccine adjuvants currently licensed for use in the U.S. The three FDA-approved alumimun-based adjuvants are alum, AS04 and AS03. Alum in found in vaccines that protect against hepatitis B and pneumococcal infections. AS04 is included in the HPV vaccine Cervarix, and AS03 is in an H5N1 bird flu vaccine.

Previous NIAID adjuvant discovery contracts identified adjuvants that trigger a small set of receptors that call the innate, or inborn, immune system, into immediate action to provide a nonspecific defense mechanism.

The new NIAID awards will be focused on looking for compounds that can activate the other immune system, called the adaptive immune system, which can provide long-term protection from infection by specific pathogens.

- get more from NIH
- read about NIAID's Strategic Plan for Research on Vaccine Adjuvants