From his vantage point overseeing NIH’s infectious disease agenda, Anthony Fauci has identified vaccine development as an area poised to make big leaps. He says the institute’s prioritization of platform technologies holds more promise than pursuing pathogens strain by strain.
Fauci spoke with BioCentury about his strategic priorities for his thirty-fifth year as director of NIH’s National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
At the top of his list is capitalizing on improvements in structural biology techniques such as cryoelectron microscopy (cryo-EM) to design vaccines that induce broadly neutralizing immune responses to rapidly evolving, poorly immunogenic pathogens like influenza and HIV.
Increases in cryo-EM resolution have enabled more precise structural analyses of broad arrays of targets not well addressed by long-established techniques like X-ray crystallography (see “Cryo-EM a River”).
Fauci also sees potential for virus-like particles (VLPs) and other nanoparticles to systematize vaccine development by swapping different antigens onto the same backbone, enabling the field to respond more quickly to emerging pathogens like Zika virus and Ebola (see “Fever Pace for Zika”).
As a major funder of U.S. infectious disease research and