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Medicine & Science
A Visit with Dr. Alan Barrett
by Jim and Lynda Guidry
Friday, August 15, 2014

The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston today announced that the Sealy Center for Vaccine Development has been named a World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Vaccine Research, Evaluation and Training on Emerging Infectious Diseases. News Release

“It’s exciting news because we will be the seventh university in the world to have the designation as World Health Organization collaborating center for vaccine research,” said Dr. Alan Barrett, director of the UTMB Sealy Center for Vaccine Development and now director of the UTMB WHO Collaborating Center for Vaccine Research, who talked to Guidry News Service about the designation. Listen (10:55)

He added that UTMB is only the second university in the Western Hemisphere to receive the designation; the other is the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Dr. Barrett commented on the recent media attention to Ebola research at UTMB.

“Ebola is a disease like many emerging diseases where there are vaccine candidates,” he said.  “As we know in the media, there are a number of vaccine candidates that look very promising in animal testings.  The question, of course, is will they work in humans?”

Ebola research is supported by the military, as well as the medical community.

“I think the way in which we regard bio-defense and emerging diseases at UTMB is, one disease is like looking at two sides of a coin,” he said.   “On the one side of the coin it is a natural disease, as we are seeing today in Ebola in Africa; but on the other side of the coin, unfortunately, it can be made a man-made bio-threat agent.”

Dr. Barrett said that clinical human trials on a promising candidate will begin in September.

He said the WHO collaborating center at UTMB has three missions.

“One is to provide advice on the pipeline for these different vaccine candidates; the second one is to undertake research and evaluation of vaccine candidates; and the third one is to train vaccinologists,” Dr. Barrett said. “It’s very important that we train the next generation of scientists.”

UTMB’s vaccine development experts will collaborate with the select team of international experts to help facilitate vaccine research and development against important infectious diseases and explore means to get experimental Ebola vaccine candidates to patients in the wake of the recent outbreak.

Visit the UTMB Newsroom:

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