This was originally published in ‘The Nerve’ the Southampton Biological Society Paper & ‘Wessex Scene’ University Newspaper:
The School of Biological Sciences has just been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to fund the designing of new vaccines at the university.
The grant is for the microbiologist Dr Jeremy Webb and his team who are trying to design a vaccine that will provide protection from pneumonia and meningitis. During infection the bacteria assemble together to form what is known as a biofilm, this acts as a defence mechanism against antibi¬otics and the host’s immune system. Dr Webb and his colleagues are seeking to identify proteins that allow the biofilms to form in humans with the aim of finding a possible target for vaccines.
“People often think of bacteria as single organisms, but in reality most bacteria cooperate to form complex communities” explained Dr Webb. “Vaccines in use today are generally based on the properties of single celled bacteria. Our approach is new because we will target properties of the protective biofilms in order to design new vaccines.”
The Southampton team is working in conjunction with researchers from the University of Liverpool and University of Bristol.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the biggest privately owned charitable organisation in the world and each year donates around $1.5 billion to a variety of causes worldwide.
Dr Tachi Yamada, president of the Gates Foundation’s ‘Global Health Program’ says: “The winners of these grants show the bold thinking we need to tackle some of the world’s greatest health challenges. I’m excited about their ideas and look forward to seeing some of these exploratory projects turn into life-saving breakthroughs.”