University of Rhode Island, EpiVax advance avian flu vaccine with federal grant

Annie DeGroot is a research professor at URI, and is the co-founder, chief scientific officer and chief executive officer of EpiVax. | File photo
Researchers at EpiVax and the University of Rhode Island recently received a $600,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop an H7N9 avian influenza virus vaccine.

Annie DeGroot, a research professor at URI, is the co-founder, chief scientific officer and chief executive officer of EpiVax, a biotechnology company. She and her team will use bioinformatics tools to create vaccines against emerging infectious diseases.

“I am proud of my hard-working team of scientists and collaborators who were able to put together this award-winning application,’’ De Groot said. “NIH funding has been extremely competitive in the past few years, and this new vaccine development program is truly cutting-edge.’’

This Small Business Innovation Research program grant will be used for “immune engineering” vaccines, which may be more effective. Re-engineering these viral proteins could make a strong immune response. This also saves the risk of creating protective antibodies against the original version of the virus.

“We are fortunate to have Dr. Annie De Groot and her team conducting innovative biotech research here in Rhode Island,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said. “This federal funding is a boost for EpiVax’s work to engineer new vaccines and an investment in Providence’s life sciences industry.”

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University of Rhode Island 45 Upper College Rd Kingston, RI 02881

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