George Mason University researchers receive $314,000 to design better vaccines

George Mason University's Aarthi Narayanan, Associate Professor, College of Science and the National Center for Biodefense and Infectious Disease, and Remi Veneziano, Assistant Professor, Volgenau School of Engineering, received $314,000 from U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity (USAMRAA) for a project researching DNA-nanoparticles and vaccine design.

This project will explore a new vaccine design that uses one-, two-, and three-dimensional structures made out of DNA molecules, commonly referred to as DNA origami, to deliver viral antigens. The benefit of this approach over traditional vaccines lies in the customizable, nanoscale organization of the DNA structures. Antigens can be placed in precise locations on the DNA scaffold, and the antigens delivered can be heterogenous/combinations. The researchers expect to find that the specificity of arrangement increases the immunogenic potential of the vaccine while ensuring safety.

The vaccine design being investigated could pave the way for a uniform approach to serious challenges, such as dengue virus and other emerging infectious agents. Following a proven approach to develop a vaccine would help it be more readily accepted by the market and decrease the time it takes to get a vaccine to patients.

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