Our Mission Statement
Almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. In this population, 50% of the healthcare burden – the main cause of morbidity and mortality – is infectious disease. In the developed world infectious disease is a problem especially in the elderly where hospital-acquired infections are common, antibiotics are overused, and drug-resistant superbugs are emerging. As drug-resistant infections sweep across the globe, public-health organizations have focused mainly on developing new antimicrobial treatments and cutting the overuse of existing ones, to prevent resistant strains emerging. A key weapon in the battle against drug-resistant superbugs is vaccines to reduce antibiotic use and quell the spread of resistant strains. Billions of people will benefit from the availability of effective vaccines to lower the healthcare burden in underdeveloped countries, and the world will benefit from vaccines that reduce the use of antibiotics.
For these reasons, vaccines continue to be a national and international public health priority drawing on support from the NIH, DoD, the pharmaceutical industry, and philanthropic sources. The Vaccine Research and Development Center (VRDC) at UCI benefits from integrating immunology, pharmacology, physical sciences, bioengineering, chemistry, and clinical and translational medicine dedicated to the study of basic and clinical Vaccine Science. The interdepartmental and interdisciplinary science program facilitates convergence science and problem-based teaching. The University of California currently does not have a similar integrated program in Vaccine Science and UCI is leading this new initiative.
The timing strongly favors the creation of a Vaccine Program at UCI. Advances in adjuvant science have yielded examples of novel vaccines that use state of the art adjuvant chemistry (TLR receptor agonists) as adjuvants that boost immune response and improve vaccine efficacy. The human papillomavirus vaccine (Cervarix, Merck) uses a modern TLR-4 agonist (MPLA, monophosphoryl lipid A) to boost vaccine efficacy. Another company, Dynavax, recently announced approval of an improved hepatitis B vaccine (HEPLISAV-B™) which uses a TLR-9 nucleic acid adjuvant (CpG) to produce a more effective vaccine with fewer doses. This environment of commercial successes favors interactions between industry and academia.
The UCI Vaccine Center has a complete roster of expertise that covers all areas of active vaccine development. These include TLR agonist chemistry, a unique platform for antigen discovery in microorganisms, and strong immunological expertise to analyze immune responses produced in vivo. We also have unique infrastructure advantages including a BSL-3 training facility (only one out of 3 in the nation), and a functioning BSL-3/ABSL-3 facility to conduct live organism challenge studies in animals with controlled pathogens. And we have the Institute for Clinical and Translational Science (ICTS) to assist in conducting human vaccine clinical studies as the program matures into clinical testing. These developments underscore the opportunity in Vaccine Science and Education available now at UCI.