BCG vaccine is safe, does not increase Covid risk: Study

BCG vaccine is safe, does not increase Covid risk: Study

  • August 7, 2020

London: The Bacille Calmette-Guerin or BCG vaccine, originally made against tuberculosis, has a general stimulating effect on the immune system and is therefore effective against Covid-19, say researchers.

The study, published in the journal Cell Reports Medicine, compared groups of volunteers who have received a BCG vaccine in the past five years (before the corona pandemic), showing that the vaccine is safe and possibly influences Covid-19 symptoms.

“It is very important to confirm that someone who has been vaccinated with BCG does not experience any increased symptoms during the Covid-19 pandemic,” said study researcher Mihai Netea from Radboud University in the Netherlands.

The BCG vaccine is the most widely received vaccine in the world. Originally intended to treat tuberculosis, it later became apparent that it provides a long-lasting, general boost to the innate immune system.

The vaccine was therefore also effective against other conditions.

In the current study, the research team conducted research into these effects referred to as “trained immunity”.

The ‘300BCG’ study is a result of his work, in which a group of healthy volunteers received the BCG vaccine and could thus be compared to a group of healthy volunteers who did not.

Most volunteers received the vaccine between April 2017 and June 2018.

The purpose of that study was to determine the difference in the immune response, but now that the corona pandemic is present, the same subjects were questioned to see if there is an effect of the vaccine on the symptoms attributable to infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

It’s safe, perhaps a positive effect, the study showed.

What the comparison between the groups shows is that those who received the vaccine did not have more symptoms, did not get sick more often or become more seriously ill, during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in the Netherlands.

The data show also a cautiously positive picture, with a lower number of sick people in the period March-May 2020 among the BCG-vaccinated group, and also a lower incidence of extreme fatigue among the vaccinated individuals.

The researchers underline that this was to be expected given the well-known effects of the BCG vaccine on healthy volunteers.

“Although we see less sickness in the people who have had the BCG vaccination, only the ongoing prospective BCG vaccination studies can determine whether this vaccination can help against Covid-19,” Netea said.

Recently, another study published in the journal Science Advances, revealed that BCG vaccination can be effective in the fight against Covid-19.

(Inputs From IANS)

New therapy extends breast cancer survival rate, prevents reoccurrence

BCG vaccine is safe and does not lead to an increased risk of COVID-19 symptoms

  • August 6, 2020

The BCG vaccine, a vaccine originally made against tuberculosis, has a general stimulating effect on the immune system and is therefore effective against multiple infectious diseases – possibly also against COVID-19. This study compared groups of volunteers who have received a BCG vaccine (or not) in the past five years (before the corona pandemic), showing that the vaccine is safe and possibly influences COVID-19 symptoms.

The results of this research have now been published in Cell Reports Medicine.

The Bacille Calmette-Guérin or BCG vaccine is the most widely received vaccine in the world. Originally intended to treat tuberculosis, it later became apparent that it provides a long-lasting, general boost to the innate immune system. The vaccine was therefore also effective against other conditions. At Radboud university medical center, Professor of Experimental Internal Medicine Mihai Netea and his team conduct research into these effects, referred to as “trained immunity”.

The 300BCG study is a result of his work, in which a group of healthy volunteers received the BCG vaccine and could thus be compared to a group of healthy volunteers who did not. Most volunteers received the vaccine between April 2017 and June 2018. The purpose of that study was to determine the difference in the immune response, but now that the corona pandemic is present, the same subjects were questioned to see if there is an effect of the vaccine on the symptoms attributable to infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

It’s safe, perhaps a positive effect

What the comparison between the groups shows is that those who received the vaccine did not have more symptoms, did not get sick more often or become more seriously ill, during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Netherlands. The data show also a cautiously positive picture, with a lower number of sick people in the period March-May 2020 among the BCG-vaccinated group, and also lower incidence of extreme fatigue among the vaccinated individuals.

The researchers underline that this was to be expected given the well-known effects of the BCG vaccine on healthy volunteers. However, the study also has limitations that prevent conclusions from being drawn regarding the benefit of the BCG vaccine against the novel coronavirus: “It is very important to confirm that someone who has been vaccinated with BCG does not experience any increased symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although we see less sickness in the people who have had the BCG vaccination, only the ongoing prospective BCG vaccination studies can determine whether this vaccination can help against COVID-19”, says professor Mihai Netea of Radboudumc.

Various clinical randomized trials are already underway to answer this question, including several in the Netherlands.

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coronavirus vaccine

UW researchers launch effort to develop unique type of COVID-19 vaccine – WQOW

  • August 5, 2020

MADISON (WKOW) – Researchers at UW-Madison are working to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, one that operates differently than traditional vaccines and would primarily benefit people who are at most risk from the disease.

Carl Ross, Director of Waisman Biomanufacturing, which operates through the university, said the facility is working with North Carolina-based Heat Biologics to develop the vaccine, which they’re hoping to have ready for Phase One trial by early 2021.

“We’re doing things faster than it’s ever been done before,” Ross said. “Normally a process like this would take a year, a year and a half to get into a Phase One clinical trial and we’re doing it in six months.”

The vaccine is different than traditional vaccines where an inactivated strain of the virus is injected. This vaccine has proteins engineered to appear as cells damaged by COVID-19.

In theory, this will allow the body to immediately detect when the disease is attacking the body and to boost white blood cells as they track down the antigen and destroy it.

“This would be similar to if you had a bloodhound and you wanted it to find someone, you’d show it a piece of clothing so it knows what to go get,” Ross said. “That’s kind of what the vaccine does.”

The researchers from Waisman and Heat believe this approach could especially help people in high-risk categories.

In a statement emailed Tuesday, Heat CEO Jeff Wolf wrote, “Heat’s gp96 COVID-19 vaccine program is focused on providing prophylactic protection to elderly patients and those with underlying health conditions, the very group of patients with an increased risk of complications and death from COVID-19 infection. Heat is one of the few companies specifically developing a T-cell activating vaccine intended to treat those most at risk.”

Ross said the immune system-boosting proteins are especially helpful for those at greater risk because those same individuals are less likely to have a positive response to traditional vaccines.

“They will have a harder time responding to the traditional vaccine, such as the (Warp Speed vaccines) that are being developed,” Ross said.

Dr. Jonathan Temte, Associate Dean of Public Health at the UW School of Medicine, said it will be key for multiple vaccines to come available to meet supply needs. He added that would also bring complications.

“If one line goes down, there’s a supply for others so that’s the good part,” Temte said. “The bad part is that, with these vaccines, they’re so very different from each other that if you get started with one dose with one vaccine, you really have to have that vaccine the next time around.”

Temte said that will lead to healthcare systems needing to ensure they’re able to do the type of extensive record keeping required to make sure people know they’re getting the right vaccine.

To get there, there must first be vaccines that clear all trial phases and meet approval for mass distribution. The goal of Phase One trials is to determine whether a vaccine is safe for use.

If the vaccine clears that phase, it moves onto Phase Two trials, during which researchers test the effectiveness of the vaccine while still monitoring safety. Phase Three trials are when the vaccine is tested to determine if it’s effective with a large sample of patients.

“The disease has ravaged society to such an extent that we need to have multiple irons in the fire, so to speak,” Ross said. “Multiple shots on goal to try to get a solution and get back to normal.”

Moderna is pricing coronavirus vaccine at $32 to $37 per dose for some customers

Moderna is pricing coronavirus vaccine at $32 to $37 per dose for some customers

  • August 5, 2020

Moderna is charging between $32 to $37 per dose for its coronavirus vaccine for some customers, under cheaper “pandemic pricing,” the company said Wednesday.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company is currently in discussion for larger volume agreements that will have a lower price, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said on a conference call discussing the company’s second-quarter financial results. 

“We are working with governments around the world and others to ensure a vaccine is accessible regardless of ability to pay,” he said. “We’re currently in a pandemic as defined by WHO. At Moderna, like many experts, we believe the virus is not going away and there will be a need to vaccinate people or give them a boost for many years to come.”

Moderna defines a small order of its vaccine as “in the millions,” he said. The price Moderna is charging for small orders is higher than the $19.50 per dose agreed to by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and German biotech BioNTech in a deal with the U.S. government.

Bancel said the vaccine will be priced “well-below value” during the pandemic period. After the virus is under control and considered endemic, the pricing will follow traditional market pricing in line with other commercial vaccines, he said. 

“We’ll work with the market,” Bancel said.

The comments came after the company reported a fivefold increase in second-quarter revenue.

Moderna said it has begun talks with multiple countries to supply its potential coronavirus vaccine, called mRNA-1273, and has already received about $400 million in deposits as of July 31. Last week, the company started a phase three trial testing how safe and effective it is on 30,000 people with results expected as early as October. The company said it expects to complete enrollment for its phase three trial in September.

Moderna’s experimental vaccine, which is being developed with the help of the National Institutes of Health, contains genetic material called messenger RNA, or mRNA, which scientists hope provokes the immune system to fight the virus. 

The company received $483 million from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority in April to support its vaccine development. Last month, it announced it received an additional $472 million from the U.S. government. 

Earlier Wednesday, Moderna reported a fivefold increase in second-quarter revenue primarily on its coronavirus vaccine work. Revenue jumped to $66.4 million during the quarter, more than five times the $13.1 million it took in during the same period last year.

Novavax Coronavirus Vaccine Candidate is Safe, Produces Immune Response | Health News

Novavax Coronavirus Vaccine Candidate is Safe, Produces Immune Response | Health News

  • August 5, 2020

A third U.S. company has released results from a study indicating that its potential coronavirus vaccine is safe and sparks an immune response.

Novavax Inc. released results from Phase 1 of its study showing that two doses of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, NVX-CoV2373, elicited an immune response in 100% of the study’s participants. The volunteers developed neutralizing antibodies at levels four times higher on average than antibodies developed by people who had contracted the coronavirus and recovered, according to the results.

Cartoons on the Coronavirus

Neutralizing antibodies are antibodies that fight off the virus that causes COVID-19. The vaccine was given to participants with and without an adjuvant, a component to boost the immune system. The doses with the adjuvant induced a response from T-cells, a type of immune cell.

Three U.S. companies now have promising vaccine results: Moderna, Pfizer and Novavax. Novavax announced in July that it had been awarded $1.6 billion from the federal government program Operation Warp Speed to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

The potential vaccine was well tolerated in the study’s participants, which included 131 healthy adults aged 18 to 59. Reported side effects included tenderness and pain near the injection site. Headache, fatigue and muscle aches were also reported less-frequent side effects, the company said.

No Grade 3, severe or significant, adverse side effects were reported.

Data from Phase 1 has been submitted for peer review to a scientific journal but hasn’t been reviewed by independent experts or published yet.

UW researchers launch effort to develop unique type of COVID-19 vaccine – WKOW

UW researchers launch effort to develop unique type of COVID-19 vaccine – WKOW

  • August 5, 2020

MADISON (WKOW) — Researchers at UW-Madison are working to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, one that operates differently than traditional vaccines and would primarily benefit people who are at most risk from the disease.

Carl Ross, Director of Waisman Biomanufacturing, which operates through the university, said the facility is working with North Carolina-based Heat Biologics to develop the vaccine, which they’re hoping to have ready for Phase One trial by early 2021.

“We’re doing things faster than it’s ever been done before,” Ross said. “Normally a process like this would take a year, a year and a half to get into a Phase One clinical trial and we’re doing it in six months.”

The vaccine is different than traditional vaccines where an inactivated strain of the virus is injected. This vaccine has proteins engineered to appear as cells damaged by COVID-19.

In theory, this will allow the body to immediately detect when the disease is attacking the body and to boost white blood cells as they track down the antigen and destroy it.

“This would be similar to if you had a bloodhound and you wanted it to find someone, you’d show it a piece of clothing so it knows what to go get,” Ross said. “That’s kind of what the vaccine does.”

The researchers from Waisman and Heat believe this approach could especially help people in high-risk categories.

In a statement emailed Tuesday, Heat CEO Jeff Wolf wrote, “Heat’s gp96 COVID-19 vaccine program is focused on providing prophylactic protection to elderly patients and those with underlying health conditions, the very group of patients with an increased risk of complications and death from COVID-19 infection. Heat is one of the few companies specifically developing a T-cell activating vaccine intended to treat those most at risk.”

Ross said the immune system-boosting proteins are especially helpful for those at greater risk because those same individuals are less likely to have a positive response to traditional vaccines.

“They will have a harder time responding to the traditional vaccine, such as the (Warp Speed vaccines) that are being developed,” Ross said.

Dr. Jonathan Temte, Associate Dean of Public Health at the UW School of Medicine, said it will be key for multiple vaccines to come available to meet supply needs. He added that would also bring complications.

“If one line goes down, there’s a supply for others so that’s the good part,” Temte said. “The bad part is that, with these vaccines, they’re so very different from each other that if you get started with one dose with one vaccine, you really have to have that vaccine the next time around.”

Temte said that will lead to healthcare systems needing to ensure they’re able to do the type of extensive record keeping required to make sure people know they’re getting the right vaccine.

To get there, there must first be vaccines that clear all trial phases and meet approval for mass distribution. The goal of Phase One trials is to determine whether a vaccine is safe for use.

If the vaccine clears that phase, it moves onto Phase Two trials, during which researchers test the effectiveness of the vaccine while still monitoring safety. Phase Three trials are when the vaccine is tested to determine if it’s effective with a large sample of patients.

“The disease has ravaged society to such an extent that we need to have multiple irons in the fire, so to speak,” Ross said. “Multiple shots on goal to try to get a solution and get back to normal.”

Novavax reports promising early trial results of COVID-19 vaccine

Novavax reports promising early trial results of COVID-19 vaccine – World

  • August 5, 2020

US biotech company Novavax on Tuesday announced its experimental COVID-19 vaccine elicited a robust immune response, producing more antibodies than are present in recovered patients, and with generally tolerable side-effects in its early-stage trial.

The company was given $1.6 billion by the US government last month to develop and fund the drug under Operation Warp Speed — but in terms of timeline it is behind other firms including Moderna and AstraZeneca which have entered the final stages of their trials.

It reported in a press release that the phase one stage of its placebo-controlled trial involved 131 healthy adults aged 18-59 and two dose groups of five and 25 micrograms.

Side effects included soreness at the site of injection, headache, fatigue and muscle pain. These were classified as mild to moderate, and none were severe.

After the first dose, all subjects who got the vaccine developed antibodies that block SARS-CoV-2’s “spike protein,” which it uses to latch on to human cells.

Most also developed “neutralizing antibodies” which are more potent and prevent viruses from infecting cells.

After a second dose given 28 days later, all participants had the more powerful neutralizing antibodies.

Novavax reported that the lower dose performed comparably with the higher dose, which is important when it comes to mass production and because lower doses generally elicit fewer side effects.

Antibodies are infection-fighting proteins made by the immune system. 

Another part of the immune response comes in the form of T cells, types of white blood cells that have the capability to kill infected cells and which are increasingly thought to play an important role against COVID-19.

Novavax said it looked for these cells in a subset of participants and found they were present.

The trial was supported by funding from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and was conducted at two sites in  Australia.

Novavax has not yet shared the detailed findings but said it was submitting the research for publication in a peer-reviewed journal and to medical preprint site medrxiv.org. 

The final stage Phase 3 trial of its vaccine, called NVX-CoV2373, is set to take place this fall.

The Maryland-based company grows synthesized pieces of the SARS-CoV-2’s “spike protein,” which triggers an immune response, inside insect cells in order to help scale up production.

It also uses an “adjuvant,” a compound that boosts the production of neutralizing antibodies.

The company says the drug, which is a liquid formulation, can be stored at two degrees celsius to eight degrees celsius, refrigerator temperature.

In the spring, the company said it had proven the efficacy of a seasonal flu vaccine it had developed using the same technology.

Novavax Phase 1 data shows coronavirus vaccine is safe and elicits an immune response

Novavax Phase 1 data shows coronavirus vaccine is safe and elicits an immune response

  • August 5, 2020

A third US company has released study results showing its coronavirus vaccine is safe and elicits an immune response.

Novavax, Inc. released Phase 1 data Tuesday from 131 volunteers showing that after two doses of the vaccine, participants developed neutralizing antibodies at levels more than four times higher on average than the antibodies developed by people who had recovered from Covid-19. Neutralizing antibodies fight off the virus that causes Covid-19.

“That’s good. That’s really encouraging,” said Novavax president Dr. Gregory Glenn.

The vaccine also induced a response from T-cells, a type of immune cell, according to an analysis of 16 randomly selected volunteers, the report stated.

The report has been submitted to a medical journal, but has not yet been reviewed by scientists outside of Novavax or published.

Study participants received two doses of the vaccine at various dosages, both with and without an adjuvant — a component to boost the immune system.

Of the 126 people given the vaccine, five developed severe side effects, including muscle pain, nausea, and joint pain, and one had a mild fever. The side effects lasted on average two days or less.

Twenty-five volunteers got placebo injections, which are injections that do nothing. Three of those had side effects, Glenn said.

Novavax also released animal data on Tuesday. In the study, 12 monkeys received two doses of the vaccine and were then exposed to the virus that causes Covid-19. Eleven of the 12 monkeys showed no signs of infection in their noses or lungs. One monkey, which received a low dose of the vaccine, briefly showed signs of infection in the lungs, but all signs of infection were gone two days later.

Two other US companies — Moderna and Pfizer — have also released encouraging Phase 1 data. Last week, those two companies started their Phase 3 trials with 30,000 volunteers each.

Novavax, Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline have all received funding from the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed Program to develop Covid-19 vaccines, and two more unnamed companies will also receive funding, according to Moncef Slaoui, the head of the program.

Slaoui said he expects a vaccine to be available in December or January with enough doses for high-risk Americans, such as the elderly and those with underlying health problems. He said he expects there to be enough vaccine for every American by the end of 2021.

Priming HER2 breast cancer with a vaccine to improve PD-1 inhibition

Priming HER2 breast cancer with a vaccine to improve PD-1 inhibition

  • August 4, 2020

Immune checkpoint inhibitors such as Roche’s Tecentriq and Merck & Co.’s Keytruda have shown efficacy in triple-negative breast cancer, but their anti-tumor activity in the HER2-positive subtype remains limited.

Now scientists at Duke University have demonstrated that priming the immune system with a vaccine boosts the activity of existing PD-1/L1 checkpoint inhibitors in mouse models of HER2-positive breast cancer. Combining a vaccine targeting an oncogenic variant of HER2 that lacks exon 16 (HER2D16) with an anti-PD-1 antibody cleared tumors in the mice and led to prolonged survival, according to results published in the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

The promising results have led to a phase 2 clinical trial that’s testing a similar HER2 vaccine, called VRP-HER2, in combination with Keytruda in patients with advanced HER2-overexpressing breast cancer.

Unlike triple-negative breast cancer, HER2 breast cancer generally contains fewer antigenic elements that the immune system can recognize and fewer tumor-infiltrating T cells. That partly explains why unleashing the full power of the immune system with a PD-1/L1 blocker still doesn’t work well in this subtype of cancer.

Using patient samples, the Duke team confirmed that HER2D16 expression can impede HER2-targeting therapies, including Roche’s Herceptin and Kadcyla. Therefore HER2D16 may represent an important signaling mechanism that causes HER2-positive tumors to resist drug therapies, making it a good target for immunotherapy, they argued.

The team designed an adenovirus-vectored vaccine against HER2D16. In mice, a single vaccination triggered strong HER2-specific T-cell and antibody responses, which slowed tumor growth. However, the vaccine by itself couldn’t eradicate the tumors. The researchers suggested that the PD-1/L1 immunosuppressive mechanism was to blame, leading them to test a combination of the vaccine and an anti-PD-1 attack.

“The basic premise is that the immune checkpoint inhibitors work fantastic if the body has already triggered an immune response, but they don’t work well in the absence of that,” Kim Lyerly, an author of the study, explained in a statement.

While HER2-positive breast cancer didn’t respond to solo PD-1 in a mouse model, the combo achieved significant improvement in survival, with about 30% of mice experiencing complete tumor regression and more than 150 days of long-term tumor-free survival, the team reported. Further analysis revealed that the vaccination not only induced systemic immune responses, but also enhanced HER2-specific CD8 T cells that infiltrate into tumors.

RELATED: ASCO: Cancer-killing poliovirus combination shrinks breast tumors in Duke-led mouse trials

There has been increased interest in cancer vaccines, which aim to trigger an immune response against cancer. Scientists at the National Cancer Institute genetically modified dendritic cells from patients to produce parts of the HER2 protein as a vaccine.

A team at Arizona State University focused on frameshift peptides, which are proteins produced when errors occur during genetic information transfer from DNA to RNA in cancer cells. Breast cancer was one type that had large amounts of the peptides for potential vaccine design, the team found.

The Duke University scientists believe their study showed that a vaccine targeting HER2D16 is effective in eliciting antitumor T-cell responses, which can be further improved by an PD-1 inhibitor. A phase 2 trial is already testing the findings in humans with HER2-positive breast cancer. Although the current study has only examined the combo approach in breast cancer, future studies could include other HER2-positive cancer types such as gastric cancer, or even target other oncogenes, the researchers wrote in the study.

UCLA professor receives grant to develop coronavirus vaccine booster

UCLA professor receives grant to develop coronavirus vaccine booster

  • August 4, 2020

A UCLA professor received a grant to develop a new treatment that could make COVID-19 vaccines more effective.

Song Li, the chair of Samueli School of Engineering’s bioengineering department, received a $149,916 grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to create a vaccine booster that could help the body defend against the coronavirus. Vaccine boosters are used after an initial vaccination to improve the efficiency of the immune system.

Song Li, the chair for the bioengineering department, received a state grant from CIRM for his research on a project to help enhance vaccines. (Courtesy of Song Li)
Song Li, chair of the bioengineering department, received a state grant from CIRM for his research on a project to help enhance vaccines. (Courtesy of Song Li)

The grant will last one year, during which the team will infect adult mice with COVID-19 to test the vaccine booster’s effectiveness, Li said. To create the vaccine booster, the team plans to develop artificial cells that will help T cells, which the body uses as a defense against diseases, identify the COVID-19 virus, Li said.

Mahdi Hasani, the project’s co-investigator and a UCLA bioengineering assistant project scientist, said the team already knew how to train T cells to recognize and target a specific disease before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mahdi Hasani, the co-investigator of the project, works on developing biomaterials for the training of T cells to fight the COVID-19 virus. (Courtesy of Mahdi Hasani & Song Li)
Mahdi Hasani, the co-investigator of the project, works on developing biomaterials for the training of T cells to fight the COVID-19 virus. (Courtesy of Mahdi Hasani & Song Li)

They were able to get the grant because they were already using this technique to target other illnesses, said Manish Butte, an immunology and pediatrics professor.

“The beautiful thing about immunology is that you can oftentimes take a great idea that you were working on (such as) how to make T cells fight cancers better, and switch it around and help have it fight COVID infection,” Butte said.

The team had two options to pursue before getting the grant: they could either develop a drug to fight the virus once people got infected or they could develop the immunity of people to prevent infection, Hasani said.

Hasani said the team decided to pursue the second option.

“That is the ultimate answer,” Hasani said. “If you don’t have the vaccine, people will get infected no matter how good the therapy is.”

However, the team did not have the resources or expertise to develop a vaccine from scratch, Hasani said. Instead, the team decided to improve existing vaccines by creating a vaccine booster.

This method of working on a disease is new and there is a big chance of failure, Hasani said. However, if successful, the vaccine booster could protect people from the infection for the next 10 to 40 years, Hasani added.

“It’s a very high risk, high reward project,” Hasani said. “We are going to target and educate a very rare population of cells. This population will be different from patient to patient.”

If successful, the booster could help fight COVID-19 in the elderly population by increasing the production of memory T cells, Li said. It could also help improve other vaccines, he added.

Finding a vaccine that could work on elderly people poses an additional challenge, since aged immune systems have more trouble executing key aspects of a successful immune response, like producing memory T cells, Hasani said.

Butte said the human immune system is like the military, with the memory T cell at the helm.

The human body has some default barriers against infection, such as the skin and chemicals inside the body. When this first wave of defense comes under attack from a virus, these cells then call in white blood cells as reinforcements, he added.

A T cell is a type of white blood cell which acts like a command center and coordinates the immune response, added Butte, who is also a co-investigator on the project.

Manish Butte, an immunology professor, is a co-investigator off the project. He said the most important aspect of the project is the collaborative effort, something that is rarely seen in academia. (Courtesy Manish Butte)
Manish Butte, an immunology professor, is a co-investigator for the project. He said the most important aspect of the project is the collaborative effort, something that is rarely seen in academia. (Courtesy of Manish Butte)

While T cells are generally slow to respond to infections, they allow for the creation of a specialized T cell, the memory T cell, said Butte. If the immune system comes under attack from the same virus a second time, memory T cells are able to respond within minutes, he added.

“They are pre-positioned; they’re fully armed; they’re fast to react,” Butte said. “They are the Delta forces of the immune system, and they have to be trained, they’re not there the first time, they’re only there subsequent times.”

A vaccine and a vaccine booster help the body generate memory T cells before a person gets infected.

Butte said the most important aspect of this project is the collaboration between departments to quickly involve multiple people and turn an idea into a product, which is rare in academia.

“A lot of us are independent-minded and we’re all pursuing hundreds of ideas.” Butte said. “To be able to harness that level of inventiveness in a university, but also the collaborativeness towards a common goal is rare, and it is something that does happen at UCLA quite a bit.”

Email Guerrero at [email protected] or Iyer at [email protected]

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