LSU Department of Pathobiological Sciences research assistant professor Paul Rider created a malaria vaccine that will receive financial support through a “Leverage Innovation for Technology Transfer,” or LIFT2, grant provided by the LSU Board of Supervisors.
“When I came to LSU from Berkeley, I was surprised by how many opportunities there were at LSU to do research,” Rider said. “I’m happy to be able to take advantage of those opportunities to do this kind of work. I’m excited about all of the things that we’re doing here.”
Malaria is one of the “big three” infectious diseases, along with HIV and tuberculosis. There are approximately 200 million cases of malaria each year and 400,000 deaths caused by the disease, most of which are in children under the age of 5.
“The best part about our vaccine is that we target the liver stage,” Rider said. “The pathogenesis, the part that makes you sick, is the blood stage. We’re stopping it before it gets to the blood stage and causes malaria.”
When a person is bitten by an infected mosquito, the mosquito introduces sporozoites, cells that will cause infection, into the bloodstream. The sporozoites travel through the liver and divide into schizonts, which further divide into merozoites that infect the blood cells. The blood cells then burst, which causes anemia and other symptoms of malaria. Rider’s vaccine targets the parasite before it enters the blood cells.
Rider’s work expands on the research of LSU Department of Pathobiological Sciences professor Gus Kousoulas, who created a Herpes Simplex Virus vaccine. Kousoulas’ vaccine has two mutations in it that disrupt the virus’ ability to enter neurons. This prevents the virus from establishing latency, in which it lies dormant within a cell and periodically reactivates, causing the host to experience symptoms.
Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) can be categorized into HSV Type 1, which most commonly causes cold sores, and HSV Type 2, which most commonly causes genital herpes. When Rider began working in Kousoulas’ laboratory, Kousoulas and his team were determining if their vaccine could protect mice from both HSV Type 1 and HSV Type 2.
Two years ago, Rider began looking for opportunities to use Kousoulas’ vaccine to vaccinate against other infectious diseases and cancer. He began putting antigens from other infectious diseases into the vaccine and testing the vaccines’ safety and efficacy.
Rider began collaborating with Dr. Ahmed Aly, who currently works at Bezmialem Vakif University in Turkey, after Aly showed interest in using malaria antigens in the HSV vaccine. After Rider created the vaccine, Aly showed the vaccine had sterilizing immunity and completely protected vaccinated mice from malaria.
The LIFT2 fund supports academic researchers in all campuses of the University as they transition from researching and developing their technologies to commercializing them for public use. The LIFT2 fund awards grants twice a year on a competitive basis. Rider is one of 12 researchers to receive a LIFT2 grant during its ninth round of funding.
The LIFT2 grant will allow Rider to perform experiments with the malaria vaccine that are necessary for the vaccine to be available for distribution.
Rider expressed gratitude for his colleagues, including Kousoulas and former University professor Thomas Klei, and the LIFT2 grant provided by the LSU Board of Supervisors.