Ms. Claire Otero, a graduate assistant in Pediatrics, has been awarded a grant from the National CMV Foundation for her study, “Pre-clinical assessment of HCMV viral Fc receptors as vaccine targets.” The study aims to improve vaccine immunogenicity by targeting proteins expressed by cytomegalovirus (CMV) that interfere with key antibody responses.
CMV is the most common congenital infection, leading to a high burden of hearing loss and neurologic impairment in many affected infants. However, a vaccine against CMV has yet to be licensed, in part due to unclear immune correlates of protection. Recent work has implicated Fc mediated antibody effector functions (aka non-neutralizing antibodies) in prevention of placental CMV transmission.
This is a proof-of-concept study to define the immunogenicity of CMV viral Fc receptors (vFcRs), which function to inhibit Fc-mediated antibody responses. The overall goal is to improve Fc mediated antibody responses against standard vaccine antigens by targeting one or more vFcRs via active vaccination.
Ms. Otero aims to define the frequency and magnitude of antibody responses against CMV vFcRs in naturally infected individuals. Furthermore, she will utilize a rabbit immunogenicity model to determine if actively vaccinating against each vFcR elicits antibodies that can block the immune evasion function, which will be assessed by measuring Fc mediated effector responses against another antigen included in the vaccine.