Public Release: 

OHSU, partners Kineta, UW, VGTI Florida awarded NIH contract to develop vaccine adjuvants

Oregon Health & Science University

Oregon Health & Science University's Vaccine & Gene Therapy Institute (OHSU), has been awarded a $10 million contract from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Kineta, Inc., the University of Washington Center for Innate Immunity and Immune Disease (CIIID), and the Vaccine & Gene Therapy Institute of Florida (VGTI Florida) will collaborate with OHSU as major sub-contractors to develop new vaccine adjuvants that could boost the effectiveness of a wide range of human vaccines for infectious diseases including West Nile Virus, Dengue and Japanese Encephalitis. The work will also provide novel applications for enhancing the immune response against Ebola virus, HIV, and other virus infections. Infectious diseases affect millions of people in developed and developing nations, many with no effective protective vaccines.

Vaccines are the first line of defense against infectious disease and have saved millions of lives over the years. However, some people with weakened immune systems and the elderly lose the ability to respond to vaccines. The effectiveness of vaccines can be improved by the addition of substances called adjuvants that not only enhance the body's immune response to the vaccine but also decrease the dose of the vaccine, allowing the vaccine supply to be extended.

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration has approved only three vaccine adjuvants. This award is part of an NIH push to develop more adjuvants.

"Although vaccines are extremely effective at preventing disease, the elderly and infants, who are the most vulnerable part of our population, are not efficiently protected," said Jay Nelson, Ph.D., professor and director of OHSU's VGTI, who will co-lead work on the NIH contract. "For example, while 80 percent of normal healthy adults are protected with the flu vaccine, more than 40 percent of people over 65 do not develop protective immunity. We have found that the addition of adjuvants to vaccines can better protect older animals from virus infection," Nelson added.

Nelson and other OHSU VGTI scientists will work with Shawn Iadonato, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer for Kineta, Inc., a biotechnology company in Seattle, on the development of new adjuvants using the company's innate immune drug development platform.

"Kineta has significant experience in high through-put methods to identify chemical compounds that stimulate the immune system and that are safe and effective. Developing these new adjuvants could change the paradigm for generating lasting immunity to pathogens," said Dr. Iadonato.

Michael Gale, Jr., Ph.D., Professor of Immunology and Director of the CIIID at the University of Washington, will co-lead this project with Nelson. "The identification of new adjuvants will also be important to make vaccines for other diseases such as Ebola virus, influenza A virus, HIV, bacterial infection, and cancer more effective," Gale said.

During the course of the contract, scientists will first screen tens of thousands of chemical molecules to identify those with properties that indicate they could become an effective adjuvant. Then, they will study how those molecules work and make structural changes to improve their ability to enhance the immune system without causing unwanted side effects.

Toward the end of the five-year contract, scientists are aiming to have two adjuvant candidates that can be added to vaccines and advanced into Investigational Drug Development enabling studies as a first step toward FDA approval.


Oregon Health & Science University is a nationally prominent research university and Oregon's only public academic health center. It serves patients throughout the region with a Level 1 trauma center and nationally recognized Doernbecher Children's Hospital. OHSU operates dental, medical, nursing and pharmacy schools that rank high both in research funding and in meeting the university's social mission. OHSU's Knight Cancer Institute helped pioneer personalized medicine through a discovery that identified how to shut down cells that enable cancer to grow without harming healthy ones. OHSU Brain Institute scientists are nationally recognized for discoveries that have led to a better understanding of Alzheimer's disease and new treatments for Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and stroke. OHSU's Casey Eye Institute is a global leader in ophthalmic imaging, and in clinical trials related to eye disease.

UW Medicine trains new physicians and medical scientists, researches health and disease, and provides primary and specialty care to patients from Seattle and across the Pacific Northwest. The UW Medicine health system includes UW Medical Center, Harborview Medical Center, the UW School of Medicine, UW Medicine Neighborhood Clinics, UW Physicians, Airlift Northwest, and the UW's partnership in the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance with Seattle Children's and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. UW Medicine has major academic and service affiliations with Seattle Children's Hospital, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and the Veteran's Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle and the VA Hospital in Boise. The UW School of Medicine is the top public institution in federal funding for biomedical research. Among its 2,002 full-time faculty and 4,874 volunteer and part-time faculty are four Nobel Laureates, 32 members of the National Academy of Sciences, and 33 members of the Institute of Medicine. For more information about UW Medicine, visit

The Vaccine & Gene Therapy Institute of Florida (VGTI Florida) is a non-profit biomedical research institute focused on the human immune response to disease in the development of novel therapies for the prevention and treatment of infectious disease, cancers, and the diseases associated with aging. VGTI Florida is now advancing revolutionary discoveries such as personalized cancer vaccines, cancer-targeting T-cell therapies; novel approaches to eradicate and prevent HIV, and optimized anti-viral vaccines including a universal flu vaccine capable of providing protection against any strain of influenza. VGTI Florida is conducting state-of-the-art research at its 100,000 square foot award-winning research facility, located at the Tradition Center for Innovation in Port St. Lucie. For more information, please visit

Kineta, Inc. is a Seattle-based privately held biotechnology company specializing in clinical advancement of novel drug candidates derived from leading edge scientific research. Our world class scientists are pioneers in developing life-changing classes of new drugs designed to be more effective and safer than current medicines. Kineta seeks to improve the lives of millions of people suffering from autoimmune and viral diseases and from severe pain. Our progressive business model focuses on targeting unmet medical needs and rapid achievement of important clinical milestones. For more information on Kineta, Inc. visit our website,

This contract is funded in whole or in part with federal funds from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, under Contract No. HHSN272201400055C.

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