Governor Kim Reynolds today announced she has set aside $2 million in CARES Act funding to support the development of a next-generation COVID-19 vaccine through a partnership between Iowa State University and the University of Iowa.
The funding and collaboration with Iowa industry partners, including startups, will help ISU and the U of I leverage their patented technology to advance a COVID-19 nanovaccine candidate that will address the limitations of vaccines already under development.
“Through this important partnership, Iowa is supporting those on the frontlines of nanovaccine development,” Gov. Kim Reynolds said. “Iowa’s COVID19 nanovaccine candidate will not require needles or refrigeration, and could provide long-term immunity from just a single dose. I am proud of the role Iowa State University and the University of Iowa are playing in this cutting-edge development.”
This approach draws on ISU’s strengths in nanovaccine research and development, nanovaccine platform technology and animal health, as well as the U of I’s expertise in SARS virology, immunity, and unique animal models.
“The Nanovaccine Institute based at Iowa State was established in 2013 with this kind of global health challenge in mind,” said Iowa State’s Balaji Narasimhan, the project leader, director of the Nanovaccine Institute and an Anson Marston Distinguished Professor in Engineering. “We’ve created a team that can innovate and move our ideas beyond the lab. We’re ready to meet the urgent need for a COVID-19 vaccine.”
Michael Wannemuehler, associate director of the Nanovaccine Institute and a professor of veterinary microbiology and preventive medicine, is also leading the project at Iowa State.
The UI effort is being led by Kevin L. Legge, Ph.D., professor of pathology and director of the Pathology Research Flow Cytometry Core in the UI Carver College of Medicine, along with co-investigators Stanley Perlman, Ph.D., MD, professor of microbiology and immunology, and of pediatrics, in the UI Carver College of Medicine, and Thomas Waldschmidt, Ph.D., Clement T. and Sylvia H. Hanson Chair in Immunology in the Department of Pathology.
“This important funding will build on our existing successful partnership between the University of Iowa and Iowa State University and greatly aid in our efforts to bring safe, effective, mucosal-based nanoparticle vaccines against respiratory virus infections to the community,” Legge said. “Our prior work using these nanovaccines against influenza virus has shown that we are able to induce a broader and more sustained protective response which positions one’s immunity at the sites of viral entry, therein speeding up the response time versus what occurs with current influenza vaccines. These funds will allow us to transfer the lessons learned on influenza vaccines toward the creation of a safe, effective and long-lasting mucosal vaccine against SARS-CoV2/COVID-19.”
The collaboration between the two universities and industry partners also will further cement the state’s reputation as a biosciences epicenter. A 2017 report identified Iowa’s competitive advantages in the biosciences, including vaccines and immunotherapeutics.
“Today’s announcement puts to use Iowa’s unique assets and attributes in the fight against COVID-19 and fuels economic development by establishing the state as a hub for vaccine development and attracting new investments and companies,” said Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority and Iowa Finance Authority.