Center for Vaccines and Immunology - January 2020
Director’s Notebook
Happy New Year 2020! With the new year comes new anticipations and expectations. The Center for Vaccines and Immunology continues to grow. The CVI welcomes new members to its rank, including three new CVI Faculty members, Drs. Chet Joyner, Annie S. De Groot, and Giuseppe Sautto. Each member enhances the strengths of the CVI and brings new energy to the Center. The members of the CVI have just begun a new adventure to develop a broadly-reactive, more universal influenza vaccine funded by the National Institutes of Health. This 7-year project opens a new phase in the Center’s development of new vaccines for human health. The $130M award is the largest in UGA history and shows the commitment of the University that investing in infrastructure, resources, and personnel results in high profile biomedical research awards. The Center for Vaccines and Immunology is leading these research endeavors on campus. We are expecting more to come.
The Center has reached a new milestone with 9 faculty members and now is home to 80 faculty, staff, and students operating in the 6 Principal Investigator laboratories. The first labs moved into the current Center location in August, 2016 and in that time CVI has added new people, new space, new equipment, and new initiatives. The Center’s Core facilities continue to expand with new equipment, such as a new bioreactor system for purification of proteins, stable cell lines, hybridomas and purification of monoclonal antibodies, and virus production, as well as new personnel to provide these services for the CVI Faculty laboratories.

It was an active year 2019 and we look forward to the challenges in 2020.
Center for Vaccines and Immunology
Welcomes Dr. Chester Joyner,
Assistant Professor
Chet Joyner joins the University of Georgia as an Assistant Professor of Infectious Diseases and a Full Member of the Center for Vaccines and Immunology on January 1, 2020.

Dr. Joyner is a native South Georgia where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Biology graduating Summa Cum Laude with Honors in 2011 from Georgia Southern University. He received his PhD In Immunology and Molecular Pathogenesis from Emory University in 2017.

His research focuses on the parasite Plasmodium vivax is a major cause of malaria – a life-threatening mosquito-borne disease responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths globally each year. P. vivax remains a major obstacle for malaria elimination, due to its ability to form dormant stages in the liver. These forms can become activated to cause relapsing blood-stage infections. Relapses in human patients remain poorly understood, because it is difficult to verify whether P. vivax blood-stage infections are due to new infections or relapses.

Dr. Joyner studies rhesus macaques infected with Plasmodium cynomolgi, a model of P. vivax, and assessed pathogenesis, host responses and circulating gametocyte levels during relapses. Compared to initial infections, relapses are clinically silent -- no fever or signs of inflammation -- and they are associated with a robust memory B cell response. Memory B cells are the immune system’s “reserve library” for antibody production. Relapse responses did result in the production of antibodies that were able to mediate clearance of parasites. Despite this rapid immune protection, sexual-stage gametocytes, which may be infectious to mosquitoes, continued to circulate. 
Center for Vaccines and Immunology
Welcomes Dr. Annie De Groot,
Senior Research Scientist
Annie S. De Groot joins the University of Georgia as a Senior Research Professor as a Full Member of the Center for Vaccines and Immunology. 

Dr. Groot is a physician, immunologist, and co-founder and CEO/CSO of the immunoinformatics company EpiVax. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from Smith College in 1978 and an MD from the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago in 1983. She completed her residency in internal medicine at Tufts New England Medical Center and then trained in Parasitology and Vaccine Research at the NIH and in Infectious Disease at the Tufts New England Medical Center.

Dr. De Groot is board certified in Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases. She is the volunteer Medical Director and currently practices Internal Medicine at the Clinica Esperanza (Hope Clinic), a free clinic for residents who do not have health insurance. 
Prior to EpiVax, she was a professor at Brown University, where she established the TB/HIV Research Lab. The laboratory attracted a range of intelligent and creative Brown University undergraduate and graduate students who worked with Dr. De Groot on projects ranging from improving healthcare for inmates living in correctional facilities in the United States, improving access to care in West Africa, and developing cutting edge tools for analyzing protein sequences and designing vaccines.

While at Brown University, she worked with colleagues to develop the EpiMer and EpiMatrix epitope mapping tools. These were among the first motif-based and matrix-based, fully automated T cell epitope mapping tools. The team applied these tools to HIV vaccine design and were soon travelling to HIV Vaccine conferences as a group to demonstrate how the tools could be used to help design vaccines that would be effective against a range of HIV strains. Additional tools were developed that automated genome sequence analysis for highly conserved, immunogenic epitopes, starting from any protein sequence.

Dr. De Groot and consultant Bill Martin established the commercial company to make these tools available to a wider audience. EpiVax was founded with an initial grant from the Slater Biotechnology Foundation in 1998. EpiVax is well-known for innovative, collaborative research in computational vaccinology and immunoinformatics.
Center for Vaccines and Immunology
Welcomes Dr. Giuseppe Sautto,
Assistant Research Scientist
Dr. Giuseppe Sautto will join the University of Georgia as an Assistant Research Scientist in the Center for Vaccines and Immunology. 

Dr. Sautto is obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Medical Biotechnology at the University of Milan (Italy) from in 2006. He then received a Master’s Degree in Molecular and Cellular Medical Biotechnology in 2008 and a PhD in Molecular Medicine in 2012 at the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University of Milan. From 2007 Giuseppe have focused his research activity on the selection, cloning, characterization and engineering of monoclonal antibodies directed against infectious agents (such as HCV, influenza and opportunistic fungi). He gave also lectures on Microbiology to undergraduate students.

He joined as a visiting scientist the International Novartis BioCamp in Basel (Switzerland) in 2012, the Institut de Biologie Structurale in Grenoble (France) in 2013 and the Institute of Virology of the Technical University of Munich (Germany) in 2014. He is author, editor and reviewer of several international scientific journals. In 2015, he was awarded by the Carlo Erba Foundation for his research activity on viral diseases. He joined the Center for Vaccines and Immunology in 2016 as a post-doctoral fellow where he is mapping epitopes elicited by next generation influenza vaccines.

Center for Vaccines and Immunology
Welcomes Annie Curry,
Business Manager/ Administrative Specialist
Annie Curry attended the Knapp School of Business with an emphasis in Accounting. She was born and raised in Minnesota from which all her extended family still live.

She was in corporate accounting for over 20 years and landed in West Palm Beach Florida from which she met her husband. They relocated to Athens in 2006 and Annie has worked at UGA since then in various business office roles.
Center for Vaccines and Immunology
Welcomes Danielle Pierce
Grants and Administrative Specialist
Danielle Pierce joined the Center for Vaccines and Immunology in the beginning of November. In addition to administrative duties, she will be assisting in the organization and tracking of grants for the faculty members within the CVI. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies from the University of Georgia in 2014. Shortly after graduation, she returned to the university to begin her administrative career in the medical records department of the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
Center for Vaccines and Immunology
Welcomes Michael Kulik,
CVI Research Director
Mr. Michael Kulik is the new Research Director for the Center for Vaccines and Immunology. He will manage Operations, Core Facilities, and Biosafety for the CVI, including coordinating the with the CVI Research Laboratories, the College of Veterinary Medicine Departments, UGA Biosafety, the AHRC, Animal Resources, and other University Departments on Campus. His research activities include developing hybridomas and purified monoclonal antibodies for assessment of influenza vaccine candidates as part of the UGA CIVIC Center for Influenza Vaccine Research for High Risk Populations.

Previously, Michael worked with pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) and joins the CVI following an appointment with Dr. Steve Dalton in the Center for Molecular Medicine since 2005. He arrived at UGA from Raleigh, NC, via central NY. His previous work studied PSCs with collaborators at UNC Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, and a small biotech firm in Research Triangle Park, NC. 
Center for Vaccines and Immunology
2020 Spring Seminar and Work-in-Progress Series
Wednesdays, 11am-12noon
Paul D. Coverdell Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences, Room S175
The Center for Vaccines and Immunology will host a Seminar Series and Work-in-Progress Presentations during the Spring, 2020 Semester.
January 15:
February 5:
February 12:
February 26:
March 4:
April 8:
April 22:

Rodrigo Abreu
Genevieve Fouda
Kirk Haltaufderhyde
Bernardo Mainou
Paul Duprex
Melinda Brindley
Alison Morris

Center for Vaccines and Immunology
Duke University
University of Rhode Island
Emory University
University of Pittsburgh
University of Georgia
University of Pittsburgh

The CVI Seminars and Work-in-Progress Presentations will resume during the Spring Semester. Currently, 5 outside speakers are scheduled along with 2 UGA Faculty Speakers with additional presentations to be scheduled.

If you are interested in nominating speakers for a CVI Seminar, please contact the CVI Seminar Director, Dr. Jarrod Mousa.  
In the News
NIH awards up to $130M to develop universal flu vaccine
September 30, 2019 by  James Hataway
As Reported in UGA Today on September 30, 2019, The University of Georgia signed a contract with the National Institutes of Health for an initial award of $8 million to develop a new, more advanced influenza vaccine designed to protect against multiple strains of influenza virus in a single dose. The total funding could be up to $130 million over seven years if all contract options are exercised.

UGA faculty will lead one of NIH’s new prestigious Collaborative Influenza Vaccine Innovation Centers (CIVICs) and collaborate with teams from 14 other universities and research institutes to create and test new vaccines that may one day replace seasonal vaccines administered every year during flu season. The university expects that over the seven-year contract span, the project will be the largest award ever received by the University of Georgia.

The UGA-led CIVIC is entitled the Center for Influenza Vaccine Research for High Risk Populations (CIVR-HRP). The main goal of our project is to identify vaccines that are broadly protective, meaning that they will protect people against most of the versions of the influenza virus that infect humans,” said Ross. “But we are particularly interested in developing a vaccine that protects the most vulnerable people in our population, including children, the elderly or people with weakened immune systems.”
Vaccines News by UGA Researchers in 2019
UGA investigators were involved with some remarkable breakthroughs in vaccine research in 2019.
Dr. Ralph Tripp, CVI Affiliated Faculty Member, is developing vaccine for childhood illness
For now, there’s also no vaccine to prevent kids from getting sick in the first place. But that’s something the University of Georgia’s Ralph Tripp aims to change.

By Leigh Beeson / University of Georgia, Posted Sep 25, 2019
Vet Med professor named UGA Inventor of the Year
May 14, 2019. by  Lisa Herrmann
Holly Sellers, a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine, is UGA’s 2019   Inventor of the Year   and the first woman to receive the designation since 2001.

A researcher at the   Poultry Diagnostic and Research Center  (PDRC), Sellers’ research has led to 12 invention disclosures and five U.S. patents, with another application pending and a multitude of foreign patents and applications. Her technologies have been made available to industry partners through more than 20 license agreements, leading to four commercial poultry vaccines as well as numerous autogenous vaccines that together support and secure Georgia’s $22.9 billion poultry industry.  
College of Pharmacy, CDC develop vaccine for CCHF virus
April 25, 2019. By Jeanne Prine

Dr. Scott Pegan’s team from the UGA’s College of Pharmacy have successfully discovered a single-dose vaccine that provides complete protection against the Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever, or CCHF, virus in mice, a disease that poses a public health risk and has the potential to cause a major epidemic. Results of the study have been published in Emerging Microbes and Infections.   The study was performed in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, led by Éric Bergeron.

“The success of this replicon particle vaccine marks a fundamental step forward in the CCHF field in the effort to find a viable strategy to combat this disease,” said Pegan. UGA and the CDC have filed a joint patent for the new vaccine.
  Representing the Center for Vaccines and Immunology
Options for the Control of Influenza X Conference was held in Singapore. Drs. Mark Tompkins, Pej Rohani, and Ted Ross all gave Oral Presentations at the Conference. Upper left: Singapore Skyline. Upper right: Dr. Tompkins on the Big Stage. Bottom Left: Dr. Rohani and Tompkins enjoying the Gala Dinner.
American Society for Virology
American Society for Virology Annual Conference was held in Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota campus. CVI members Ying Huang, Ivette Nuñez, and Michael Carlock presented posters and Beau Renner, Sunny Jang, Amanda Skarlupka and Madelyn Krunkoski gave oral presentations.
International Society for Vaccines
American Association for Immunologists
2019 Annual Symposia
Center for Vaccines and Immunology Mixer held in April
Highlights from CVI labs in 2019
Norris Lab
In 2019, Dr. Norris’ laboratory conducted research on infections associated with immunocompromised individuals, age-related host immunity, inflammatory diseases and on the pathogenesis of HIV-related co-comorbidities. Dr. Norris’ team has established pre-clinical models of Pneumocystis pneumonia, respiratory syncytial virus infection and complex cardiopulmonary diseases including pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Dr. Norris’ laboratory is used these models to understand the pathogenesis of these diseases and tested preventive vaccines and treatments.
Highlights in 2019

Cobos Jiménez V, Rabacal W, Rayens E,  Norris KA . Immunization with Pneumocystis recombinant KEX1 induces robust and durable humoral responses in immunocompromised non-human primates. Hum Vaccin Immunother. 2019;15(9):2075-2080.

Bourgeois A, Bonnet S, Breuils-Bonnet S, Habbout K, Paradis R, Tremblay E, Lampron MC, Orcholski ME, Potus F, Bertero T, Peterlini T, Chan SY,  Norris KA , Paulin R, Provencher S, Boucherat O. Inhibition of CHK1 (Checkpoint Kinase 1) Elicits Therapeutic Effects in Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2019 Aug;39(8):1667-1681.
Mousa Lab
In 2019, Dr. Mousa’s Laboratory focused on elucidating the molecular mechanisms by which the human immune system combats infectious disease pathogens, particularly respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and human metapneumovirus (hMPV). Both viruses are closely related and can cause severe respiratory tract infection in the immunocompromised, such as premature infants and the elderly. His laboratory studied the molecular basis for antibody-mediated immunity to RSV and hMPV to better understand the mechanism by which these viruses can be neutralized effectively. Members of the Mousa laboratory isolated antibodies that may serve as the next line of therapeutics against RSV and hMPV infection.
Highlights of 2019

  • Dr. Mousa received an NIH RO1 award entitled “Structural and mechanistic insights into antibody neutralization of human metapneumovirus.”
  • Dr. Mousa was awarded a CIVIC NIH Contract 2019 - 2026
  • Dr. Mousa’s laboratory published two primary research papers and one review article.
  • The Mousa laboratory successfully recruited two post-doctoral fellows.

Bar-Peled Y, Huang J, Nuñez IA, Pierce SR, Ecker JW, Ross TM,  Mousa JJ . Structural and antigenic characterization of a computationally-optimized H5 hemagglutinin influenza vaccine. Vaccine. 2019 Sep 24;37(41):6022-6029.

Bar-Peled Y, Diaz D, Pena-Briseno A, Murray J, Huang J, Tripp RA,  Mousa JJ . A Potent Neutralizing Site III-Specific Human Antibody Neutralizes Human Metapneumovirus in vivo.  J Virol. 2019 Sep 12;93(19)
Tompkins Lab
In 2019, Dr. Tompkins’ laboratory focused on understanding the immune response to influenza virus infection and developing novel vaccines and treatments for use against human and avian influenza strains. In general, his research is centered on understanding the immune response to influenza virus infection. By understanding how immunity to influenza in initiated and maintained, his laboratory designed new vaccines and therapies. Additionally, influenza infection is often followed with other respiratory infections that can lead to additional pathology and clinical symptoms. Understanding how the immune system responds to polymicrobial infections and how the multiple pathogens impact the immune response is critical for designing effective treatments for these diseases.
Highlights of 2019
  • Emily Griffin, graduate student, passed her qualifying exams and advanced to candidacy
  • Dawne Rowe was awarded a NIH Loan Repayment Program (LRP) award 
  • Dr. Tompkins received two sub-award PI grants with Georgia State University (One with Dr. Richard Plemper and one with Dr. Baozhong Wang)
  • Dr. Tompkins was awarded a CIVIC NIH Contract as Core Director 2019 - 2026
  • Dr. Tompkins was Options X - I Track Chair for Virology and Pathogenesis for the Options for Control of Influenza Meeting that was held in August 2019 in Singapore. This successful meeting was the culmination of 2+ years of planning.
Ross Lab
In 2019, Dr. Ross’ laboratory perform studies testing new universal influenza vaccine designs. Dr. Ross’ team has established and published on pre-clinical models of seasonal and pandemic influenza virus infections and vaccination for H1, H2, H3, H5, H7, H9, and influenza B, as well as age-related, pre-existing immunity, and transmission models. In addition, the laboratory continued vaccine and infection studies on emerging and re-emerging arboviruses, such as  dengue, zika, chikungunya, rift valley fever virus, respiratory syncytial virus infections. Dr. Ross’ laboratory is using these models to understand the pathogenesis of these diseases and test preventive vaccines and treatments. Several of these products have results in patent filings and license agreements. In addition to pre-clinical studies, the Ross team continued its longitudinal cohort studies on influenza vaccination people from children to the elderly. The 2019-2020 season marks the 8 straight year for these studies. The first manuscripts describing these results were published in 2018 and 2019. Also, the Ross team continued collaborative studies on Dengue and Zika infections in pregnant and non-pregnant people living in Puerto Rico and Trinidad to identify markers of severe infection.
Highlights of 2019
  • Graduate students, Ivette Nuñez, Beau Reneer, Naoko Uno, passed qualifying exams and advanced to candidacy.
  • Dr. Ross was awarded a CIVIC NIH Contract as Director 2019 - 2026
  • Members of Dr. Ross’ laboratory successfully filed 5 patent applications.
  • Dr. Ross served as co-Chair of the International Society of Vaccines Annual Congress October, 2019 in Ghent, Belgium.
  • Three members of the Ross laboratory gave Oral Presentations at the 2019 ISV Congress in October.
  • Dr. Ross was elected President of the International Society of Vaccines (2020-2021).
  • James Allen, graduate student, gave an Oral Presentation at the Influenza Vaccines for the World Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, April
  • Drs. Giuseppe Sautto and Rodrigo Abreu gave Presentations at the American Society for Immunology in San Diego, CA in May.
  • Six members of the Ross laboratory gave presentations at the American Society for Virology in Minneapolis, MN, July.
  • Members of Dr. Ross’ laboratory published 18 primary scientific manuscripts on 2019. A few are listed below.

Huang Y, Owino SO, Crevar CJ, Carter DM, Ross TM . N-Linked Glycans and K147 Residue on Hemagglutinin Synergize to Elicit Broadly-Reactive H1N1 Influenza Antibodies. 2019. J. Virol. in press.

Abreu RB, Kirchenbaum GA, Clutter EF.  Ross TM . Memory B cell recall following vaccination with split inactivated influenza vaccine in children, teens, adults, and the elderly. 2019. J. Clin. Path. Insight. In press.

Sautto GA, Kirchenbaum GA, Abreu RB, Ecker JW, Pierce SR, Kleanthous H, Ross TM . Characterization of H1 HA COBRA induced antibody epitope mapping by monoclonal antibodies. 2019. J. Immunol. In press.

Qiu Y, Stegalkina S, Zhang J, Boudanova E, Park A, Zhou Y, Prabakaran P, Pougatcheva S, Ustyugova I, Vogel T, Mundle S, Oomen R, Delagrave S, Ross TM , Kleanthous H, and Qiu H. Mapping of a Novel H3-specific Broadly Neutralizing mAb Targeting the HA Globular Head Isolated from an Elite Influenza Immunized Donor Exhibiting Serological Breadth. 2019. J. Virol. in press.

Nuñez IA and Ross TM . Glycosylation site located on the hemagglutinin head of the Human COBRA 2 vaccine elicits protective antibody response through immune diversion. 2019. Vaccine. S0264-410X(19)31497-5. 

Skarlupka AL, Owino SO, Suzuki-Williams LP, Crevar CJ, Carter DM, and Ross TM . 2019. Computationally Optimized Broadly Reactive Vaccine Based Upon Swine H1N1 Influenza Hemagglutinin Sequences Protects against both Swine and Human Isolated Viruses. Hum Vacc Immunother. 15(9):2013-2029.

Carlock MA, Ingram JG, Clutter EF, Cecil NC, Ramgopal M, Zimmerman RK, Kleanthous K, Ross TM . 2019. Impact of age and pre-existing influenza on the induction of human antibody responses against influenza B viruses. Hum Vacc Immunother. 15(9):2030-2043.

Bissel SJ, Carter CE, Want G, Johnson SK, Wiley CA, Ghedin E, Ross TM . Aged-related pathology associated with H1N1 A/California/07/2009 infection. 2019. J Am Path. 189(12):2389-2399.

Arévalo MT, Huang Y, Jones CA, Ross TM . Age-Related Modulation of Immune Response to Vaccination with a Chikungunya Virus-Like Particle Vaccine and Chikungunya Viral Infection. 2019. PLoS Neg Trop Dis. 13(4):e0007316.
The 2019 Center for Vaccines and Immunology Retreat
The Center for Vaccines and Immunology held its faculty retreat on February 19 th at the State Botanical Gardens to review activities from the past year, the upcoming goals for 2019, and receive overall feedback on the progress of the Center with the CVI Advisory Board. Both Full Member and Affiliated Faculty attended for the half day session. The 2018-2019 Advisory Board: Drs. Donald Harn and Stephen Trent from Infectious Diseases, Dr. Nancy Manley from Genetics, Dr. Steve Stice from Animal and Dairy Sciences, and Dr. Christine Syzmanski from Microbiology. We thank them for their service to the CVI.
2019 CVI Retreat and Advisory Board Meeting was held at the State Botanical Gardens of Georgia .
Seated are full and affiliated members of the CVI
Pictured: Melinda Brindley, Karen Norris, Debbie Bratt, Justin Bahl, Michelle Booden, Biao He
We are pleased to announce the 2020-2021 Advisory Board:

Dr. Steve Dalton from the Center for Molecular Medicine
Dr. Kim Klonowski from the Department of Cellular Biology
Dr. Pej Rohani from the Odum School of Ecology
Dr. Michael Tiemeyer from the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center
Dr. Stephen Trent from the Department of Infectious Diseases
We look forward to working with them over the next two years.
Graduate Students and Post-doctoral Fellows in Action
Undergraduate Student Research in the
Center for Vaccines and Immunology
The CVI has focused on student education in the translational biomedical sciences for both graduate and undergraduate learning. As part of its mission, the CVI participates in the Vertically Integrated Projects Program to help educate and train undergraduate students at the University of Georgia. Students participate in developing critical thinking, hands-on practical training in cutting-edge techniques in biomedical immunology and translation vaccinology, and learn to work as team to achieve common goals. Students are provided the opportunity to teach and train the next generation of undergraduates each semester to hone the Scientific Leadership Skill necessary to participate in the Biomedical Academic, Governmental, or Industrial Community.
The CVI started its program in 2016 and has directed training for 50 students in the past 36 months. In 2019, we expanded the program to include additional students to intern or earn class credit. Activities include a variety of biochemical, immunological, cellular biology, and vaccine studies.  
2019 Undergraduate Student Researchers
If you are interested, contact the Director at Email:   c [email protected]
The Center for Vaccines and Immunology
held its annual Holiday Reception
at the Georgian Hall on December 12 th
Everyone had Food, Drink, and Fun Times. 
Fabulous Gifts Won!

Sprucing up the Lobby for 2020!
For 2020, the Center for Vaccines and Immunology updated our lobby. Two new offices were constructed and an area for graduate student activities.
Stop by and see the new digs!