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Jianrong Li, DVM, PhD

Award Name CCTS Pilot - Public Health Preparedness for Infectious Diseases
Award Date 05/01/2009

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Live Vaccine Candidates for Human Metapneumovirus

The Ohio State University Center for Clinical and Translational Science and the Ohio Center for Public Health Preparedness for Infectious Disease awarded a pilot grant to Jianrong Li, PhD for his research project examining paramyxoviruses. These RNA viruses produce flu-like symptoms and are transmitted through the air and by direct contact. Paramyxoviruses are the leading cause of mortality worldwide due to acute viral respiratory tract infections and most often affect people with compromised immune systems such as infants, children, pregnant women, and the elderly. For most human paramyxoviruses, there are no vaccines or anti-viral drugs.

Li, an Assistant Professor for the Department of Food Science and Technology (College of Food, agricultural and Environmental Sciences) and Division of Environmental Health Sciences (College of Public health), is conducting this research project in order to develop a live vaccine candidate for preventing viral respiratory disease using human metapneumovirus (hMPV), a type of paramyxovirus, as a model.

“This virus is less understood because it is a new virus [that was] discovered in 2001,” said Li. “There has not yet been a vaccine produced because it is difficult to generate an attenuated virus with good immunogenicity.”

Li’s study contains three major steps in order for his vaccine candidate to be considered successful. Currently, the first two steps have already been completed. First, a viral protein (L-protein) is altered at a specific region. A mutant hMPV can then be generated by altering the L protein in order to decrease viral replication and gene expression so that it will be attenuated in cell cultures as well as in animal models.

Testing these mutant hMPVs as live vaccines in mice is what remains for Li to accomplish. He plans to test the efficiency of this vaccine by checking for specific immune response against hMPVs. The immunized mice can then be challenged with a virulent hMPV to determine if the vaccine was successful.

“There is a long way to go from mice to humans,” said Li, but he remains hopeful that this vaccine candidate will progress and eventually lead to immunization of humans. “If this particular vaccine strategy is successful, it will be possible to create vaccines for other paramyxoviruses in the future.”

By Rachelle Metz, Friday, November 20, 2009

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