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Tuesday, April 20th, 2021

LLNL researchers aid development of tularemia vaccine

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A pair of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) researchers are part of a three-institution team funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to further develop a tularemia vaccine.

Nick Fischer and Amy Rasley will collaborate with University of New Mexico and Tulane National Primate Research Center scientists under a five-year, $7.5 million DTRA grant. Their work will build on nanotechnology called nanolipoprotein particles (NLPs) developed at LLNL for delivering vaccines and drugs inside the human body.

Fischer and Rasley have demonstrated the ability of a subunit vaccine, incorporating different antigens from the Francisella tularensis bacteria into a single particle, to protect against high doses of bacteria when aerosolized. F. tularensis is the bacteria that causes the disease tularemia, more commonly known as rabbit fever.

“We had confidence that we could develop a tularemia vaccine that would work,” Fischer said. “But it took eight years of hard work and multiple failures to get us where we are today.”

Rasley said the demonstration is only a first step but serves as a critical advance that researchers have been attempting to achieve for more than 30 years.

“This project leverages expertise our scientists have worked hard to perfect and highlights our ability to contribute to the Lab’s national security mission,” Kris Kulp, division leader for the Lab’s Biosciences and Biotechnology Division, said. “The collaborations formed with our university partners are key to producing and testing this novel vaccine. We anticipate this project will significantly enhance our nation’s ability to protect our soldiers.”