December 14, 2000

UCSD Researcher Receives Grant to Develop Tuberculosis Vaccine

Richard S. Kornbluth, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of medicine in the UCSD School of Medicine and Veterans Affairs Medical Center, is one of nine researchers worldwide to receive one of the first-ever Sequella Global Tuberculosis Foundation grants for the development of tuberculosis vaccines.

In studies with mice, Kornbluth will use his $50,000 grant to study a novel method developed at UCSD to stimulate the immune system for better control of tuberculosis microbes in the body.

The nine vaccine-development awards announced today were made possible by a five-year $25 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the Sequella Foundation’s Tuberculosis International Vaccine Collaboration. The Gates Foundation notes that vaccines are the foundation of infectious disease control and represent the best hope of improving the health and well-being of the world’s poorest children.

Tuberculosis is a world health problem of awe-inspiring proportions. Every second, someone in the world is newly infected with TB. Overall, about one-third of the world’s population - nearly 2 billion people – are infected with TB, and some 2 to 3 million die each year.

People infected with TB will not necessarily get sick with the disease. In most people exposed to mycobacterium tuberculosis, the agent that causes TB, the immune system “walls off” the TB bacteria in the lung. The disease can remain dormant for years until the individual’s immune system is weakened, by old age or cancer treatments, or HIV infection, and then the chances of getting full-blown TB are considerably greater.

In his research, Kornbluth will focus on treatment for this latent form of TB, in hopes of stopping it from becoming the deadly version. Kornbluth and his team will infect normal mice with a low dose of TB to create the latent form of the disease. They will then attempt to stimulate the mouse immune system with a synthetic form of DNA nucleotides call immunostimulatory sequences (ISS), which mimic the properties of bacterial DNA, such as that in TB. ISS was developed by researcher Eyal Raz, M.D., of the UCSD Stein Institute for Research on Aging, who found that ISS when applied to cell cultures or delivered into animals controlled the growth of TB microbes. Kornbluth will investigate ISS in mice along with a protein called CD40 ligand, which has been found in previous rodent studies to play a key role in fighting infection and disease.

Kornbluth’s previous studies have been supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and the UCSD Center for AIDS Research. In addition to Kornbluth, recipients of the Sequella Global Tuberculosis Foundation grants include researchers in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Canada, Korea, North Carolina and New York.

#  #  #

Media Contact: Sue Pondrom
610-543-6163  spondrom@ucsd.edu
UCSD HEALTH SCIENCES COMMUNICATIONS HEALTHBEAT