We interviewed the Principal Investigators responsible for leading each of the CIVICs Centers as part of a two-part interview series. Previously, we learned about the Principal Investigators at the Center for Influenza Vaccine Research for High-Risk Populations (CIVR-HRP), Dr. Ted Ross and Dr. Stacey Schultz-Cherry. This article provides an introduction to CIVR-HRP and CIVICs from the perspective of Dr. Ross and Dr. Schultz-Cherry.
If you had to make an elevator pitch for CIVICs, what would you say?
Dr. Ross: The CIVICs program will lead to new, paradigm changing ways we vaccinate people against influenza viruses circulating today and in the future.
Dr. Schultz-Cherry: The Collaborative Influenza Vaccine Innovation Centers (CIVICs) program is focused on improving flu vaccines for everyone.
Tell me the origin story of your Center.
Dr. Ross: Stacey and I decided to write a CIVICs proposal that will go beyond the typical assessment of vaccines in healthy adults and acknowledge that a true “universal” vaccine needs to be effective in all populations of people, regardless of health status, age, genetic background, or environmental health and nutrition. We had animal models representing all these types of backgrounds and could assess our COBRA-based influenza vaccines in these models to predict what may happen in clinical trials.
Dr. Schultz-Cherry: Ted and I came up with idea for our Center after batting around different ideas related to ongoing influenza vaccine research. We decided to focus our CIVICs research proposal on vaccinating vulnerable populations.
Explain the scientific aims of your Center to me, but pretend I’m a high schooler.
Dr. Ross: Our Center aims to provide a comprehensive assessment of broadly-protective next-generation influenza vaccines. This comprehensive assessment is done through fundamental research on protective host responses to provide insight into the mechanisms that drive vaccine effectiveness.
Dr. Schultz-Cherry: Our Center works to identify several different platforms that work across all of the high-risk flu models that we use.
If you had to recommend another person from your Center for me to interview, who would it be, and why?
Dr. Ross: I recommend interviewing Dr. Galit Alter at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard. Dr. Galit is a highly dynamic researcher and has insight into influenza viruses and immune responses. Also, Dr. Galit would be entertaining to interview.
Dr. Schultz-Cherry: I would recommend interviewing Dr. Elodie Ghedin at the NIAID’s Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases, because not only is her research interesting, but she is also an interesting and funny person.