Dr. Mark Poznansky Speaks at Tufts University Global Health Seminar

On November 29th Dr. Mark Poznansky spoke to a group of Tufts University students about emerging infectious disease, global health and the Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center’s (VIC) contributions to vaccine development. The event, organized by Chloe Boehm, a VIC intern, on behalf of Tufts Timmy Global Health, a group dedicated to alleviating health disparities through their work in Guatemala and in the greater Boston area, brought together a diverse group of Tufts students, largely representing the community health and biology departments.

The interdisciplinary nature of the event led to a discussion of larger topics within global health, including the effect of climate change on emerging infectious disease and the increasing range of Aedis aegypti mosquito, an important vector in the spread of Dengue and Zika.

As Dr. Poznansky delineated VIC’s innovative VaxCelerate program, many students were impressed with the coordination and collaborative nature of VIC’s rapid vaccine development initiative. Second year undergraduate Evan Cook remarked, “Giving up personal victory is essential when trying to effectively and efficiently find therapies to aid the general public.” Indeed, the VaxCelerate model relies on ‘team science’ and interdisciplinary collaboration to develop vaccines within a drastically reduced time frame. The exciting concept of providing ‘vaccines on demand’ also shows VIC’s commitment to embracing novel technologies for research. A discussion of the progression of immunological research, from the development of FACS to the more recent CyTOF, cemented VIC as a pioneer in the early adoption of biomedical technologies.

The translational approach to research and development employed by VIC occupies a unique niche, one that has resulted in the development of clinically relevant therapies and vaccines. This lesson of collaboration and coordination is integral to the development of young scientists and health professionals, and will continue to guide translational research for years to come.

Update On The New CDC Guidelines For Outpatient Antibiotic Prescribing

As covered in the previous VIC blog post, the UN organized a meeting in September to draw the attention of health care providers, researchers, and politicians to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance throughout the world. On November 11th, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidelines to limit unnecessary prescriptions for antibiotics and to promote more responsible prescribing patterns in outpatient facilities. The Core Elements of Outpatient Antibiotic Stewardship outline four pillars that outpatient health care providers should adapt their practice around including commitment, action for policy and practice, tracking and reporting, and education and expertise. The CDC proposed the new pillars in an effort to encourage physicians to curb their excessive antibiotic prescribing practices, which could limit the transmission of antibiotic-resistant infections and effectively decrease the associated costs of medical treatment.

The CDC developed the new guidelines in response to recent reports that highlighted the majority of inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions as being for viral infections and the tendency of providers to prescribe broad-spectrum antibiotics for common bacterial infections. The reports revealed areas of potential improvement to physicians and researchers and presented the problem of antibiotic resistance as largely preventable through commitment to change in outpatient facilities. In order to improve, the CDC suggests that outpatient practices monitor the antibiotic prescribing history of its physicians and provide each clinician with data on their performance relative to his or her coworkers. The governmental guidelines also encourage outpatient practices to educate physicians about proper antibiotic prescribing and clinicians to spend more time with patients to clearly explain when antibiotics are and are not necessary.

The guidelines are easily adaptable and offer outpatient facilities a great deal of flexibility in how they choose to implement and enforce certain provisions from the report. In addition, the guidelines offer a clear evidence-based pathway for clinicians to limit the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections, preventing potential deaths and slowing the rise in health care costs.

Written by: Ben Maxner


Report On The UN Meeting On The Rising Global Effects Of Antibiotic Resistance.

On September 21st the UN held an historical meeting to discuss the rising global effects of antibiotic resistance. These high-level meetings on health issues have only been held in times of crisis, as in 2011 to discuss eradicating HIV and the AIDs and in 2014 to discuss stopping the spread of Ebola.

Antibiotic resistance is the rising challenge countries around the world are facing, with patients becoming infected in greater numbers (2 million/year as reported by the CDC) from common bacterial infections that have been easily treated in the past. The use of antibiotics over the years has come to be accepted and prescribed in large quantities and, as a result, the evolution of super-bugs (or organisms resistant to current antibiotic on the market) is becoming more prevalent. This causes complications in surgical and cancer treatment cases and poses mounting costs on the healthcare system worldwide. The UN addressed this issue and is pushing for greater awareness of the problem from medical providers, researchers and the public on the importance of antibiotic use in cases of infection and for the proper handling of medications. Over prescription and over consumption of antibiotics is believed to have caused this resistance to surface and, therefore, we must be wary of the potential outcomes of continuing such practices.

The adverse effects of antibiotic resistance will also affect agriculture and animal husbandry as the economic impact of antibiotic resistant crops and animals to disease will hit worldwide, and the implications of a mass-loss in substance production would be felt in everybody’s pockets.

It is vital to maintain an awareness of the outcomes of new policy changes and major decisions on this issue and an unprecedented global effort will be required to tackle the resistance to antibiotics. Researchers at VIC are committed to developing new vaccines to prevent emerging infectious diseases.

Written By: Anastasia Artamonova

http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2016/09/21/494914739/u-n- pledges-to- fight-antibiotic-resistance- in-historic- agreement

Dr. Satoshi Kashiwagi at VIC Receives 2016 DOM Innovation Pilot Grants From The MGH Medicine Innovation Program

Dr. Satoshi Kashiwagi, a Principal Investigator at VIC, receives 2016 DOM Innovation Pilot Grant. This award is created by the Medicine Innovation Program to accelerate the development and introduction of innovative ideas that clearly move an existing project along a defined path from idea to working solution. In this project entitled “Near-infrared laser to augment antigen specific tolerance”, Dr. Kashiwagi hopes to successfully develop an effective immunotherapy using laser light that will save patients suffering from autoimmune diseases.
Dr. Kashiwagi is Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He was trained as an obstetrician in Japan, and finished his research training at MGH in the fields of tumor angiogenesis and nitric oxide biology. He is currently running his laboratory in VIC with support of NIH R01 grant. His laboratory’s central focus has been to develop a new class of energy-based, physical immunological adjuvants.

VIC at Myopia Polo 2016

On July 31st, VIC headed back to Myopia Polo Club for the third annual “VIC at Myopia Polo” event. This event, held in support of our research to advance cures for cancer, diabetes and infectious diseases, brought together young professionals from around New England for an afternoon of polo, cocktails and charity. Despite the chance of inclement weather, the event sold out to nearly 200 attendees for the third year in a row. Guests dressed their finest to vie for a chance to win the much-talked-about “best dressed” award – a competition that was nearly to close to call!

As the doors opened to the event, the skies cleared and attendees sipped cocktails and watched Team USPA take on South America in a high-speed, 16-goal polo exhibition match. While the match was a tie, the game was a fury of breakaways and jaw-dropping skill shots, delighting the veteran and first-time attendees in the crowd alike. This match, now known as the Will Tankard Memorial, was held in memory of Will Tankard, a young man and talented polo player who grew up playing at the club.

We’d like to thank our sponsors – 90+ Cellars, Lila Wines, Turkey Shore Distillery, Downeast Cider, Carol Bruce, Wendy Drinkwater and Rick Salter – for making such a day memorable. We’d also like to thank Alex Ingram and the VICtors youth board for their assistance in putting together this wonderful event. Finally, we’d like to thank all of our attendees for showing up in support of VIC – we can’t wait to see you all next year!

In case you missed them, you can see all the photos from the event here.

Summer Students of 2016

Written By: Anastasia Artamonova

As summer comes and goes, it is the warm memories we form now that get us through the cold Boston winters. The wonderful students of VIC have been with us for several weeks now and, sadly, it is the time to say goodbye. From veterinary school to international relations, the students represent a variety of interests and ideas as they come into VIC. However, upon departure they all leave with newfound appreciation for the science that happens behind the scenes. We have had the pleasure of working with them in a variety of projects in which they have had direct roles and impact.

From left to right, back row: Wataru Katagiri, Chloe Boehm, Ellie Dunstone, Alice Tang, Anastasia Artamonova and Steven Kandilas.
The front row: Erin Soon, Kia Lor, Scarlett Se Yun Cheon, Anita Vohra
Not Pictured: Michael Tian

An enormous thank you is in order for all the students and staff at VIC for creating the place for learning and science to come together and expose the beauty of science to the future generations. Wherever the paths may lead them in the future, we are with them and wish them the best!

Utah Zika Diagnosis Raises Questions of How the Disease Can Spread

By Anastasia Artamonova

On Tuesday, the CDC announced that a Utah caretaker appears to have become infected with the Zika virus apart from the currently known means of exposure, which include bite from an infected mosquito or sexual contact with an infected person. The person diagnosed had been caring for an elderly family member who passed away in June of 2016, having been the first case of Zika-related death in the United States. This case raises the possibility that the Zika virus can be transmitted in a new and currently unknown way, since mosquitos that carry Zika are not known to exist in Utah, the caretaker was not reported to have traveled in areas where the carrier mosquito is present, and he had not reported any sexual contact with Zika-infected individuals. 

The Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center has a research team, led by Dr. Dahlene Fusco, that is working on mechanisms related to immune responses to Zika. The VIC Zika research team recognizes the importance of maintaining a safe research environment while striving to bring to light more information on  the virus. Our team will be closely monitoring events in Utah for any updated information, and until further information is available we are following the safety precautions stated by the CDC.

More information about Zika can be found at:


Cancer Moonshot Summit at VIC

Written By: Anastasia Artamonova

Cancer has become a prominent part of the landscape nowadays, from the displays for Takeda’s “We Aspire to Cure Cancer” campaign to the Jimmy Fund tip jars all around us, cancer is no longer a topic for hushed voices and closed doors. A prominent voice that has joined the discussion is Vice President Joe Biden, who is heading the national Cancer Moonshot 2020, a program proposed to open cancer research and personalized medicine to the public and inspire collaboration between the researchers and the masses.
The Moonshot initiative has directly resonated with laboratory members here at VIC, which not only includes a focus on research towards curing cancers, but also because some of its researchers have personal experience with the disease. On June 29th the Cancer Moonshot Summit was held in hundreds of locations across the country. VIC hosted a summit in order to discuss the initiative, hear the message from Vice President Biden and hold an open discussion pertaining to Moonshot points of emphasis facilitated by Dr. Mark Poznansky and Timothy Brauns. Among the group were young students interested in research careers, established researchers, some clinicians, and others whose lives have been affected by cancer. Discussion at this meeting emphasized the need to focus on disseminating access to groundbreaking healthcare and easing the pathway to advancing research for all scientists. Everyone seemed to show interest in increasing the involvement of the student body in research and increasing the ability of scientists to receive funding in the earlier stages of their careers.

The team at VIC has been making progress in addressing these concerns locally, playing an active role in student recruitment and emphasis on introducing students to the research field. Eight students from five different countries are partaking in active roles in VIC labs this summer, assisting researchers with ongoing research, including those related to the inner workings of cancer and the development of new therapies. The initiative was not made in vain, and will continue to open doors to new scientists down the road to 2020.