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By Brendan Lynch

The University of Rhode Island reports researcher Annie DeGroot has landed a $13 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a multidisciplinary program to develop vaccines for infectious diseases.

The research is being led by DeGroot, the director of the school’s Institute for Immunology and Informatics, and the CEO of Providence-based biotech EpiVax Inc.

The project, called the Translational Immunology Research and Accelerated Vaccine Development (TRIAD) program, is intended to design vaccines with a mix of computer simulation, and in vitro and in vivo research. The research will focus on infectious diseases such as Heptatitis C, disease-causing bacteria like Helicobacter pylori and engineered biowarfare/bioterror agents.

URI researcher Thomas Mather will also direct a project on the development of a vaccine against a range of tick-borne diseases. URI will collaborate with EpiVax and Providence-based hospital system Lifespan on the project.

The funding will allow DeGroot to hire eight staff members at the Institute. The funding will also support a training course and pilot grants for researchers interested in using new vaccine design tools developed by the program.