Building a Better Vaccine
Philadelphia Inquirer; E1
One of the world's top immunologists, Hildegund Ertl, and her team of scientists and students are aiming to create an entirely unique approach to developing vaccines, and, if successful, their creations will work against HIV, the human papilloma virus (HPV), and other killer viruses such as Ebola. Traditional approaches to creating vaccines--the killing or weakening of a live virus sufficiently to spark an immune system reaction--have been ineffective against these and other viruses, sparking Ertl's unconventional approach that puts her on the cutting edge of genetic technology, according to Gary Nable, head of vaccine research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Bioterrorism threats suddenly thrust funding into vaccine development, and Ertl's work stands to make a real difference in regard to potential germ weapons like Ebola. University of Pennsylvania Medical School professor James M. Wilson, a pioneer in the experimental field of gene therapy, is Ertl's collaborator in this promising new research. A virus called adenovirus is again the focus of Wilson's research in the Ertle laboratory--the same one that caused a severe immune reaction and subsequent death of a study subject undergoing a liver transportation of corrected genes during Wilson's Penn clinical trial. It is this theory, however, that the normally harmless virus can infiltrate cells and deliver foreign genetic material that these scientists and others view as a potential breakthrough in vaccine development against AIDS and other diseases. Ertl's and Wilson's study results thus far have been published in the March Journal of Virology.