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Video Transcript – Juliette Tinker, Idaho Innovator of the Year,

Researches Vaccines at Boise State University

Video Transcript

[Juliette Tinker, Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, BSU]: Hello, I’m Juliet Tinker. I’m an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Boise State University. In my laboratory we work to develop new vaccines to improve both animal and human health. More specifically, we are constructing vaccines that can be delivered without needles, such as through the nose, mouth, or skin. This type of vaccine can significantly increase safety, reduce costs, and improve overall access to disease prevention.

Currently, we have a Boise State patent on a vaccine to prevent infection with the bacteria Staphylococcus Aureus. This organism is resistant to many commonly prescribed antibiotics and is often referred to as methicillin-resistant Staph Aureus or MRSA. This patent has important applications for both human and animal health. For humans there is no licensed vaccine to prevent MRSA, and this represents a top priority in current vaccine research.

Staphylococcus Aureus is a complex bacterium that can live happily on the skin or in the nose, or it can cause potentially fatal invasive disease. The outcome depends on many factors that we don’t fully understand. Thirty to forty percent of people in the US have staph and about ten percent have the antibiotic resistant MRSA. The incidence of invasive MRSA infection, oftentimes associated with a visit to the hospital, is very high in the U.S. In 2010, the CDC estimated that MRSA was responsible for over 65 thousand cases of invasive disease and over 11,000 deaths, putting staph close to influenza as a leading cause of infectious disease deaths in the U.S. For animals, Staphylococcus Aureus is the most common cause of mastitis in dairy cattle worldwide. This infection causes an estimated economic loss of a hundred and eighty-four dollars per cow or 1.7 billion dollars annually in the U.S. This infection can result in hard-to-treat chronic and subclinical infections that significantly reduce milk yield. Currently there are two Staph Aureus vaccines available for use in dairy cattle. However, it is generally accepted that these vaccines have limited efficacy, and are not widely in use. Treatment for humans are animals with MRSA is lengthy and costly, and in some cases, there is simply no effective treatment. Thus, to prevent disease altogether is ideal.

In my research lab at Boise State, my students and I are taking a unique approach by creating a vaccine that can be delivered through the nose, mouth, or skin. We have constructed purified protein fusions with highly immunogenic antigens from Staph Aureus, and a non-toxic domain of cholera toxin. We have shown that these molecules can be delivered through the nose to stimulate immune responses. Not only are these mucosal routes safer and less painful mechanisms for the delivery of vaccines, but for staph, they also have the potential to prevent colonization, and in humans nasal colonization is a top risk factor for later invasive disease. In this era of antibiotic-resistant emerging infectious diseases there is a great need for the promotion of new vaccines. The technology we are developing at Boise State has the potential for increasing vaccine acceptance and reducing costs, and importantly, preventing significant disease.