UC Davis Health biostatistician Laurel Beckett and immunopathologist Alexander “Sandy” Borowsky are part of a new research center to develop vaccines for chlamydia, a common sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis.
The center, called the Cooperative Research Center for NanoScaffold-Based Chlamydia trachomatis Vaccines, launched Oct. 1 at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). It includes experts at LLNL, UC Irvine and UC Davis. Their work is funded by a five-year, $10.1 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“LLNL is extremely pleased to be named an NIH Cooperative Research Center focused on developing new vaccines to prevent diseases that potentially touch so many lives,” said Kris Kulp, the acting leader of LLNL’s Biosciences and Biotechnology Division.
“This project capitalizes on a wealth of expertise that our scientists have worked hard to build over the last decade and will help develop LLNL capabilities to create novel treatments for other diseases of national security interest,” Kulp added.
The scientists will build on a nanotechnology ― called nanolipoprotein particles (NLPs) ― developed at LLNL for delivering vaccines and drugs inside the human body. NLPs are water-soluble molecules that are 6 to 30 billionths of a meter in size. They resemble HDL particles, which are associated with regulating good cholesterol.
The scientists will use NLPs to find surface-exposed proteins within the outer membrane of Chlamydia trachomatis. They believe those proteins could serve as vaccine targets.
The UC Irvine team will develop models that mimic chlamydia infections in people. That process will enable LLNL researchers to refine their nanoparticle designs. The UC Davis team will focus on testing the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that at least 1.7 million cases of chlamydia were diagnosed in the U.S. in 2017. Nearly half of reported cases were in women aged 15 to 24 years. Most infections are asymptomatic. Untreated infections in women can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease or infertility. The disease also has been linked to ovarian cancer.