Updated January 26 at 10:26am

De Groot pursues Ebola research

As world health experts work to contain Ebola in West Africa, URI scientist Dr. Annie S. De Groot is working to develop a vaccine for the disease. More

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De Groot pursues Ebola research

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SOUTH KINGSTOWN – As world health experts work to contain Ebola in West Africa, URI scientist Dr. Annie S. De Groot is working to develop a vaccine for the disease.

De Groot, who is director of the University of Rhode Island Institute for Immunology and Informatics, as well as medical director of Clinica Esperanza in Providence and CEO of biotechnology company EpiVax, has conducted preliminary studies of an Ebola vaccine in collaboration with scientists at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

Using Ebola epitopes, De Groot has demonstrated an immune response in a mouse. While that initial study was limited in scope, she said she is confident she could produce an effective vaccine if her studies were expanded to additional Ebola antigens.

“Not only would this approach be safer than whole-antigen approaches that are currently being explored, but it would be more rapid,” De Groot said.

De Groot has previous experience working on fast-track vaccines with the Army research outfit.

“The key to making an effective Ebola vaccine, I believe, is to trick the immune system into producing robust immune response to Ebola antigens while avoiding any components that might cause adverse effects,” she said. “That’s the best attribute of epitope-based vaccines, which are well-accepted in cancer therapy but have faced unanticipated barriers to entry in infectious diseases.”

Ebola in West Africa, Annie De Groot, EpiVax,

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