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Eric Lafontaine

[email protected]

University of Georgia

Organisation background

The University of Georgia’s threefold teaching, research and service mission spans the globe with campuses in five Georgia locations, Washington, D.C., England, Costa Rica and Italy, as well as partnerships in more than 50 countries on six continents. 

As a comprehensive land-grant and sea-grant institution, we offer baccalaureate, master’s, doctoral, and professional degrees across a broad range of disciplines. The university is also home to the Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership.

Our scholars are committed to improving quality of life for all and are leaders in pivotal fields, such as infectious disease, vaccine development, regenerative medicine, plant sciences and more. One of the nation’s top universities for technology commercialization and licensing income, our research has resulted in nearly 700 commercial products reaching the marketplace.

Why we entered the Competition

The University of Georgia’s total R&D expenditures for fiscal year 2016 was 175 million dollars. Many departments within the University of Georgia study zoonoses and livestock disease.

Our interests in One Health and infectious diseases, our expertise in animal modeling, vaccine development, immunology, microbial pathogenesis, and high containment research, and the unique resources and facilities available at the University of Georgia to perform both small and large animal studies in high containment drove us to enter the Competition.

The project team

The project is a collaboration between the laboratories of Drs. Daniel Mead (medical and veterinary entomology and virology, expertise with small and large animal models for high containment agents including vesicular stomatitis viruses, avian influenza viruses, Burkholderia mallei, and Brucella melitensis), Biao He (developed the vaccine platform, expertise in viral pathogenesis and vaccinology), Robert Hogan (immunologist, expertise in vaccinology and animal models for high containment agents including Ebola, influenza, B. mallei, and Burkholderia pseudomallei) and Eric Lafontaine (bacteriologist, expertise in pathogenesis and vaccine development for B. mallei and B. pseudomallei).

Our technical approach

The pathogenesis of Brucella species is complex and involves the coordinated expression of many virulence factors that support extracellular and intracellular replication of bacteria, seeding of deep tissues, and development of chronic infection. Therefore, a vaccine targeting a single antigen may not be sufficient to elicit sterile immunity and provide complete protection. To address this, we are developing vaccines that contain multiple Brucella high value antigens. The targets were carefully selected based on data demonstrating that they are highly conserved in Brucella species, specify biological functions critical for virulence, fitness and/or persistence in the host, are displayed on the surface of bacteria, which is a prime location for host-pathogen interactions accessible to the immune system, and/or are expressed in vivo and elicit the production of antibodies during infection. 

We are introducing a new viral vector system as vaccination platform to deliver high value Brucella target antigens.  The platform has been shown to provide excellent protective immunity against multiple high consequence agents including viruses and bacteria, has excellent safety and efficacy records, does not require the use of adjuvants for boosting immunogenicity, and does not persist in the host.  Our vaccine delivery system also has a broad host range and elicits durable immune responses in many species including livestock affected by Brucella as well as humans. 

Recombinant viruses expressing high value Brucella target antigens are tested for safety, immunogenicity, and efficacy against Brucella melitensis challenge using a mouse model.  Best-in-class vaccines are then validated in the Brucella melitensis goat model for safety, immunogenicity, and efficacy against infection and abortion.

Additional information

For further information please contact Eric Lafontaine

Animal Health Research Center

111 Carlton Street, Building 1077

Athens, Georgia, United States of America 30602

TEL  706-542-2863  |  FAX 706-369-4012  |  EMAIL   [email protected]