Research & Innovation
MAKING VACCINES FOR NEWBORNS
"Worldwide, there are more than 2 million deaths a year from infection in children less than 6 months of age," says Ofer Levy, MD, PhD. "Also, from a global health perspective, if you can give a vaccine at birth, a much higher percentage of the population can be covered."
Recently, Richard Malley, MD, and his team have been funded to create a heat-withstanding skin patch that could be placed on infants' backs (safely out of reach) for several hours, immunizing them transdermally. If this works, similar patches could feasibly be developed for many other vaccines. "This is a revolutionary and simple way to administer vaccines," Malley says.
A newborn’s immune system in a tube
In much of the world, birth is the only time children see a medical provider—and their only chance to be vaccinated. Unfortunately, newborns’ immature immune systems respond poorly to most vaccines, leaving them vulnerable to serious infections.
Ofer Levy, MD, PhD, in Children’s Division of Infectious Diseases, wants to create vaccines that work right at birth. His lab has found that one part of the newborn immune system, a receptor called TLR8, responds robustly to stimulation. In June, the lab won $2.4 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop and test a variety of novel vaccine formulations, with and without TLR8 stimulators.
The test system is first of its kind, using tissue engineering to simulate a live newborn’s immune system. Developed by Guzman Sanchez-Schmitz, PhD, in Levy’s lab, it combines blood plasma, several kinds of immune cells, and simulated blood vessels, lymphatic vessels and lymph nodes—all made from newborn cord blood. If a vaccine formulation does well in this lifelike model, it could be advanced toward human testing.
|Multinational study for newborn vaccination|
Ofer Levy, MD, PhD, of Children's Division of Infectious Diseases led a study funded by the medical Research Councel (MRC; U.K.), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Institutes of Health to research the use of an adjuvant (immune system stimulator) with blood from Gambian infants, which could lead to more effective vaccination. Learn more about this multinational study in the Children’s newsroom.
|Identifying autism with electroencephalograms (EEG)|
|Richard Malley, MD and Kristin Moffit, MD of the Division of Infectious Diseases led testing of a protein-based vaccine that inhibits pneumococcus (streptococcus pneumonia) by stimulating TH 17 cells which clear bacteria from the upper respiratory tract, which is the starting point of infection. This could be a cheaper and more effective alternative to current vaccines which are designed to make antibodies. Learn more about the vaccine study in the Children’s newsroom.|