Newswise — DURHAM, N.C. -- The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has awarded $17.5 million over three years to the Duke Human Vaccine Institute to develop a vaccine that protects against multiple types of coronaviruses and viral variants.

Researchers at Duke Human Vaccine Institute (DHVI) announced they designed a pan-coronavirus vaccine earlier this year that demonstrated protectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 and variants, as well as the original SARS-CoV-1 and related bat coronaviruses that could potentially cause the next pandemic.

The NIAID funding will enable the DHVI team to develop the next generation of pan-coronavirus vaccines against the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) type of coronaviruses, as well as make a vaccine against other groups of coronaviruses that cause a portion of the common cold syndromes. Finally, the funded team will be prepared to respond quickly to any new coronaviruses that might arise, including a SARS-CoV-2 variant that might be resistant to current vaccines.

“We are appreciative of this funding and honored that NIAID has recognized our work as integral to the important mission of preparing for the next pandemic,” said Barton Haynes, M.D., director of DHVI. “If it’s possible to have a vaccine immediately available when a new pathogen emerges, we could limit much of what has been so deadly and disruptive about the current COVID-19 pandemic.”

Haynes said the pan-coronavirus work at DHVI includes a multi-disciplinary team and key collaborators, including:

  • Ralph Baric, Ph.D., professor in the departments of Epidemiology and Microbiology and Immunology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill;
  • Bette Korber, Ph.D., of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
  • Drew Weissman, M.D., Ph.D., professor in vaccine research at the University of Pennsylvania and a co-creator of the mRNA vaccine technology used in current COVID-19 vaccines;
  • Sampa Santra, Ph.D., of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Developing a potential next-generation vaccine is of urgent importance, Haynes said: “We are already working on multiple vaccine candidates.”

In addition to its work on COVID-19 vaccines, DHVI has received large federal contracts or grants to research, develop and test vaccines for HIV and influenza.