(Boston)—Anthony Griffiths, PhD, associate professor of microbiology at Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine, has received a 15 month, grant of up to $5.2 million in funding from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). Funds from this award will be used to support the development of vaccines against the highly deadly Nipah virus.
Emerging infectious diseases can have enormous consequences locally and globally. The World Health Organization has identified Nipah virus as a priority disease. Griffiths and his team of scientists are working to understand the biology of emerging and re-emerging viruses and to deploy their knowledge to support the development of vaccines and therapies.
Currently, there is no licensed vaccine against or treatment for Nipah virus infection. Given the urgent need for vaccines, Nipah virus became one of the first pathogens on CEPI’s target list following the coalition’s launch in 2017. Since then, CEPI has invested up to $100 million in four promising Nipah vaccine candidates, being developed by teams across academia and industry. CEPI’s overarching goal, as part of its plan to reduce or even eliminate future epidemics and pandemics threats, is to develop a licensed Nipah vaccine or additional medical countermeasure.
This new BU funding will be pivotal to supporting this ambition. Through this new partnership with CEPI, Griffiths will provide CEPI-supported Nipah vaccine developers with preclinical models to test their vaccine candidates. This will allow vaccine developers to have their candidates rapidly assessed. It also allows CEPI and potential future vaccine regulators to be sure that the vaccine has been assessed in its early stages under rigorous quality standards.
“Nipah is an emerging zoonotic virus, (can be transmitted between animals and people) with a high fatality rate that is associated with sporadic outbreaks. However, this virus is thought to be a major concern for a future pandemic,” said Griffiths, who also is an investigator at the Boston University National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL). NEIDL is one of a handful of laboratories in the world that have the capability to conduct the studies being awarded by CEPI today.
Griffiths received his undergraduate degree at the University of Reading, England. He then went on to receive his PhD at the University of Cambridge, England, followed by his post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard University.
His career has been focused on virology, first as an undergraduate quantifying virus diversity in poliovirus vaccine preparations, as a graduate student studying herpes simplex virus entry into polarized cells, and then as a postdoc studying the mechanisms of herpes simplex virus drug resistance. Since 2006, he has focused on pathogens that require maximum biosafety containment facilities (BSL-4), such as those at NEIDL.
During COVID-19, Griffiths and his team pivoted to support development of assays to quantify immune responses, evaluation medical countermeasures in vitro and in experimental models and assessments of inactivation methods.
CEPI is an innovative global partnership between public, private, philanthropic, and civil society organizations launched in Davos in 2017 to develop vaccines to stop future epidemics. Their mission is to accelerate the development of vaccines and other biologic countermeasures against epidemic and pandemic threats so they can be accessible to all people in need.
CEPI played a pivotal role in response to COVID-19, developing one of the world’s largest and most diverse COVID-19 vaccine portfolios, which includes the Moderna, University of Oxford /AstraZeneca and Novavax vaccines, now being deployed in their millions and billions around the world. To build on the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic and better prepare for future infectious disease threats, CEPI has set ambitious goals as part of its pandemic preparedness plan, including the ambition to develop vaccines in 100 days – a third of the time it took to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. Known as the 100 Days Mission, this target could play an important role when responding to future Nipah outbreaks.