Challenges in vaccine development, including the emergence of new diseases, and inadequate protection provided by some of the existing vaccines, have prompted vaccine research to shift away from empirical approaches towards more rationally engineered and pathogen-tailored vaccines. Enhancing our understanding of the mechanisms of action of human vaccines can inform rational design of human vaccines with optimal potency and safety. The Vaccine Evaluation Research Lab led by Ali Harandi seeks to respond to this need.
The main research interest and current activities of the lab include in-depth evaluation of human responses to approved and exploratory human vaccines and adjuvants. This includes in-depth characterization of early biomarkers of vaccines immunogenicity, adjuvant potency and safety as well as assessment of the quality of vaccine/infection-induced antibody responses. The lab harnesses the power of cutting edge Omics technology combined with immunological read-outs to identify transcripts, microRNAs, and metabolites that can act as biomarkers of immunogenicity and immune safety of licensed human vaccines and promising exploratory vaccines and adjuvants. In-house developed Bio-Layer Interferometry-based assays, linear peptide microarray assay along with conventional multiplex serology assays are also employed for in-depth evaluation of antibody avidity, and conformational and linear B cell epitopes targeted by antibodies induced after vaccination or infection.
The lab has participated, for the past decade, in several European Commission-funded collaborative projects with the overarching objective of enhancing our understanding of the mechanisms of action of clinically tested vaccines and adjuvants as well as characterization of immune responses to human pathogens. This includes participation in the collaborative projects on evaluation of the recently approved Ebola vaccine Ervebo, a licensed intradermal influenza vaccine, an exploratory Shigella-ETEC vaccine, and an exploratory Schistosomiasis vaccine involving cohorts in Europe, Asia, Africa, the US and Canada.
These efforts can help inform rational development of new and improved human vaccines with high potency without compromising safety.