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Researchers receive prestigious grant to design vaccines for pneumonia and meningitis

Published: 
27 October 2009

Researchers from the University of Southampton have received a US$100,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The team, led by microbiologist Dr Jeremy Webb, was awarded funding to design new vaccines that will give protection against the bacteria that cause pneumonia and meningitis.

Dr Webb’s project is one of 76 grants announced by the Gates Foundation in the third funding round of Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative to help scientists around the world explore ways to improve health in developing countries. The grants were provided to scientists in 16 countries on five continents.

Researchers at University of Southampton’s Schools of Biological Sciences and Medicine, working with colleagues at the University of Bristol and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, aim to create vaccines to stop bacteria ganging together and forming a defence layer, or ‘biofilm’, against antibiotics and the body’s immune system. By targeting biofilms, researchers hope to reduce the mortality associated with meningitis and pneumonia.

Researchers receive prestigious grant to design vaccines for pneumonia and meningitis
Dr Jeremy Webb

“People often think of bacteria as single organisms, but in reality most bacteria cooperate to form complex communities,” comments Dr Webb, from the University of Southampton’s School of Biological Sciences. “Vaccines in use today are generally based on the properties of single-celled bacteria. Our approach is new because we will target properties of the protective biofilms in order to design new vaccines.”

Dr. Tachi Yamada, president of the Gates Foundation’s ‘Global Health Program’ says: “The winners of these grants show the bold thinking we need to tackle some of the world’s greatest health challenges. I’m excited about their ideas and look forward to seeing some of these exploratory projects turn into life-saving breakthroughs.”

Notes for editors

  • The study is called: “New whole-species pneumococcal vaccines.” Dr Jeremy Webb will be working alongside Saul Faust, Stuart Clarke, Luanne Hall-Stoodley, Jo Jefferies from the University of Southampton, Robert Heyderman from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Adam Finn from the University of Bristol.

  • US$100,000 equates to approximately £61,000.

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