PROVIDENCE, R.I. – September 21, 2010 – Adding to a $13 million grant awarded to her Institute for Immunology and Informatics last summer, EpiVax CEO Annie De Groot has received an additional $511,121 from the National Institutes of Health to expand the use of immunoinformatics tools to neglected tropical disease research. The funding will promote the application of the gene-to-vaccine approach conducted at URI’s Institute of Immunology and Informatics (I’Cubed); tools for the program were provided under a special agreement between URI and .

            Over 1 billion people are infected with one of the 14 diseases defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). These are the most common infections in the 2.7 billion people living on less than $2 a day and affects those that have the least access to health care. NTDs are diverse but all cause severe disability or death, and bring a major economic burden on endemic countries”.[1] NTD are also re-emerging in developed world countries; cases of dengue fever, once only a problem in the developing world, have now been reported in the United States and recently in France. One of the more common NTD’s, dengue fever is listed as the leading cause of illness and death in the tropics and subtropics by the CDC

The newly awarded NIH support for NTD vaccines is being issued under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), and it is the second grant in less than 12 months awarded to De Groot for use of EpiVAX immunoinformatics tools at the I’Cubed. In January, the I’Cubed was also awarded a $256,000 NIH supplement grant to make the tools available to researchers at Harvard, Stanford, Emory, University of Maryland, University of Oklahoma, Baylor Research Institute in Dallas and University of Massachusetts. This brings the I’Cubed total to close to $14M to fuel applications of the gene-to-vaccine approach originally pioneered by EpiVax, an approach now adopted by the I’Cubed for non-commercial vaccine development programs.

            De Groot, who joined the faculty of the URI College of the Environment and Life Sciences just 18 months ago, is also the Principal Investigator of the $13 million National Institutes of Health-funded Translational Immunology Research and Accelerated Vaccine Development (TRIAD) program. That grant helped launch I’Cubed at URI’s Providence Biotechnology Center. I’Cubed applies cutting edge bioinformatics tools to accelerate the development of treatments and cures for immune-system diseases like HIV and tuberculosis. TRIAD also established De Groot’s in silico (via computer simulation), in vitro and in vivo vaccine research program at the University’s Providence campus.

            “This funding moves us one step closer our goal of making the I’Cubed an internationally recognized center for accelerated vaccine design,” says Denice Spero, Ph.D, co-director of I’Cubed. Spero, like De Groot, has extensive experience in biotechnology. “The NTD@TRIAD grant will enable our team to expand our work to some of the most important tropical diseases affecting millions of people in the developing world. We look forward to welcoming six NTD fellows from all over the world to the Providence campus in January. This grant provides us with the exciting opportunity to collaborate across disciplines and to teach the next generation of scientists to use tools that are accelerating the development of vaccines and therapeutics.”

The staggering impact of NTD around the world drive De Groot and the team at I’Cubed to devote as much manpower as possible to accelerating vaccine development. The grant fulfills the promise made last year that I’Cubed aims to quickly make these tools available to the global research community for the development of vaccines for tropical diseases and other infectious diseases. De Groot has received national and international recognition for her innovative genome–to–vaccine approach and has been a vocal advocate for accelerating the development of vaccines for the developing world using new tools.

For more information about De Groot, the Institute for Immunology and Informatics, and the TRIAD grant research, visit www.immunome.org. For more about the tools driving the NTD program, see http://www.EpiVax.com.