The University of Montana has ranked among the top 10 universities on Successful Student’s list for “Best Universities Solving the Coronavirus Pandemic,” joining schools like Harvard and Oxford in its commitment to helping defeat the coronavirus.
The schools on the list are developing treatments, testing and diagnostics, contagion mapping, contact tracing, data collection and analyses, and education for the COVID-19 pandemic. UM received the recognition for its vital vaccine research, conducted in the Center for Translational Medicine.
“It’s nice to be recognized in this way,” said Jay Evans, CTM director. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created terrible human and economic costs in 2020. But scientists around the world have mobilized for this fight, and it’s exciting to be working toward a possible solution.”
Forty-five faculty, research staff, postdocs, graduate students and undergraduate interns comprise the center’s vaccine research team. Founded in 2016, this interdisciplinary team includes multi-department translational scientists in chemistry, formulation, molecular biology and immunology. The team is working on novel vaccines for influenza, COVID-19, whooping cough, pseudomonas, tuberculosis, Lyme disease, E. coli and opioid addiction.
Evans’ research team received $2.5 million from the National Institutes of Health to develop a COVID-19 vaccine candidate in February. Evans said the research now is at the pre-clinical vaccine development stage.
“We have identified several promising lead vaccine candidates that are rapidly advancing through safety and efficacy testing in SARS-CoV-2 challenge models,” he said.
UM’s vaccine research is unique in its use of new adjuvants, which help boost the immune system’s response to vaccines and will increase the duration of protection against COVID-19.
Scott Whittenburg, UM’s vice president for research and creative scholarship, said he is not surprised by the University’s ranking for its contributions toward helping solve the pandemic.
“The researchers in the CTM are leaders in the development of adjuvants for many of the vaccine candidates currently under consideration by the NIH,” he said. “These adjuvants will make the vaccines more effective in treating the virus, leading to lower doses and increased availability both in the U.S. and overseas. UM is having a major impact in the battle against COVID-19.”
UM’s research team also has partnered with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. Follow the UM Center for Translational Medicine’s work online at https://hs.umt.edu/ctm/.