India and US soon to begin collaborative research on vaccine adjuvant development

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In order to foster collaborations between Indian and US investigators to accelerate vaccine adjuvant research, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has invited applications from eligible candidates for collaborative research under the India-US Collaborative Research Grants on Vaccine Adjuvant Development.

This programme will support collaborations, both between academic institutions as well as between academia and industry partners. The aim is to build capacity for discovering and developing new adjuvants that can improve vaccine efficacy and also enhance career development.

Activities associated with adjuvant discovery include: the screening of compound libraries, in vitro or in silico, to identify molecules capable of stimulating (human) cellular receptors or pathways that result in enhanced innate/adaptive immune responses; identification of molecular or cellular mechanisms-ofaction of novel adjuvants; optimisation of novel adjuvants through structure-activityrelationship (SAR) studies, involving medicinal chemistry approaches; and preclinical testing of novel adjuvants in animal models with pathogen-derived antigens or licensed vaccines to determine the safety, immunogenicity and efficacy of the novel combination.

The goal of adjuvant development is to advance novel vaccine-adjuvant combinations towards licensure for clinical use. Adjuvant development activities include: characterisation of immune profiles and potential immunotoxicity induced by vaccines formulated with novel adjuvants; improvement of an adjuvant’s in vivo efficacy and reduction of reactogenicity through formulation or modification of delivery routes; toxicology, stability testing, pharmacokinetics or adsorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion studies to generate data required for initiating clinical testing of novel adjuvanted-vaccines. Adjuvant research also encompasses the development and evaluation of combination adjuvants, such as: the systematic pairing of novel or previously described adjuvants to identify highly synergistic combinations; identification of molecular or cellular mechanisms underlying synergistic adjuvant action in such combinations; or development of approaches to optimise the co-delivery of multiple adjuvants, either through carriers or other formulations, or chemical linkers. This new programme supports a wide variety of adjuvant research activities conducted collaboratively by Indian and US investigators.

Areas of collaborative research will include discovery of novel compounds with adjuvant activity; systematic optimisation of lead adjuvant compound(s); in vitro or in vivo (animals) evaluation of novel adjuvants (single compounds or combinations) combined with antigens associated with pathogenic infections, candidate vaccines, or licensed vaccines; mechanism-of-action studies of adjuvants, including identification of molecular targets, signaling pathways, or immune effector functions (e.g., soluble mediators, cellular targets); formulation/ optimisation of novel adjuvanted vaccines, including those for at-risk populations; and systematic side-by-side in vitro and/or in vivo (animal) comparison of adjuvants to down-select for subsequent product development.

However, this programme will not support cancer-related adjuvant discovery/development; and clinical trials.

From this Joint Call, the DBT seeks new innovative approaches that have the potential to transform the vaccine sector on a national or global scale by identifying and filling gaps in knowledge on the discovery/ development of novel adjuvants that enhance vaccine performance without interfering in its activity. This Joint Call is aimed to support collaborative proposals that combine complementary and synergistic research strengths in any of the aforementioned areas. This call invites consortia-based concept proposals from academia (with/without industry) with already established/identified leads and explicitly outlined deliverables for further validation.

This call for proposals will close on 7th October, 2019.

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