Georgia Research Alliance Awards Grant to Pharmacy Professor

ATLANTA — The Georgia Research Alliance has funded a new collaborative research project, led by Mercer University professor Dr. Martin D’Souza, to explore using nanotechnology to deliver a pneumonia vaccine.  Dr. D’Souza, professor in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, will collaborate on the $100,000 grant with researchers from Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. D’Souza is director of Mercer’s Center for Drug Delivery Research and will partner on the grant with Emory’s Dr. Nadine Rhouphael and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Dr. Gowrisankar Rajam, Dr. Edwin Ades, Dr. Sandra Romero-Steiner, Dr. Jacquelyn Sampson and Dr. George Carlone.

“We’re very pleased that Dr. D’Souza’s research has garnered the attention of such a prestigious grant program and it serves as a testament to the high-quality research we’re doing here at the College and at Mercer,” said Dr. Hewitt W. “Ted” Matthews, dean of the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. “Of the 36 proposals submitted from institutions in the state, to be one of only 14 selected is quite an honor.  In addition, Dr. D’Souza’s proposal was funded at the maximum level allowed under the grant program and is indicative of the promise of his research.“

The research will focus on developing a vaccine for streptococcus pneumonia, a respiratory pathogen that claims a large number of lives in young children and the elderly in the United States.  The disease effects people of all ages around the world and is often fatal among the elderly and the very young.  Mercer’s patented nanotechnology, which can deliver micro doses of vaccines, has proven to provide a more effective immune response than traditional injected vaccines in several other formulations. The grant will be used to do the initial testing of whether this nanotechnology can be applied to create a nasal vaccine for the streptococcus pneumonia virus that is more effective than the current injected vaccines.

The grant is part of the Alliance’s Next-Generation Vaccines and Therapeutics Initiative, which funds collaborative planning grants for projects among the eight universities in the state doing significant research, including Mercer.  The program supports joint university-based research and development projects related to next-generation vaccines and therapeutics that have the potential to attract significant non-state funding.  The goal of the program is to attract national research and development centers and other high-level research and development awards to make Georgia a destination in the area of next-generation vaccines and therapeutics. The program aims to create long-term, productive research and development partnerships among researchers in Georgia and develop new technologies that will accelerate the growth of the life sciences industry in the state.

This is the second award for Dr. D’Souza from the Georgia Research Alliance, which also awarded a grant in 2008 along with fellow College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences faculty member Dr. Ravi Palaniappan.

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