Emory Vaccinology Training Program

The Emory Vaccinology Training Program (VTP) was created in response to an urgent need to train a new generation of researchers in the field of vaccinology. Vaccines have made an unparalleled contribution to preventive medicine – their successful introduction and widespread use has resulted in the eradication of smallpox, the elimination of wild polio virus from most parts of the world, and a 95 percent or greater reduction in morbidity within the United States as compared to representative 20th century rates for at least six other vaccine-preventable childhood diseases. While vaccines do hold great promise for reducing disease burden, a new generation of scientists is needed to address difficulties that have plagued efforts to develop and deliver additional needed vaccines for infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria, hepatitis C, and tuberculosis and for other disabling diseases such as cancer and dementia.

The training objectives and goals of the Emory VTP include:

  • To inspire and attract outstanding postdoctoral trainees to pursue interdisciplinary training in preparation for a vaccinology research career
  • To provide each trainee with a mentoring team for their training, collaborative research project experience, and vaccinology career preparation

This program is sustained through funding from the NIAID of NIH under grant 5T32AI074492.

Program Information

The Emory Vaccinology Training Program (VTP) was initiated in 2009 with NIAID funding through a T32 training grant. Our program is focused on postdoctoral fellows. Over time, the program has expanded due to generous add-on funding from additional sources, including the CDC and the AIDS Vaccine 200 Bike Ride. These resources have enabled us to train even more fellows each year.

Eight years into the program, we have trained 15 fellows (MD, PhD, and MD-PhD). We are currently training five fellows in vaccinology research, with more than 60 peer-reviewed publications. The breadth of training experiences reflects the broad array of disciplines comprising vaccinology research: behavior, immunology, microbiology, field research, clinical trials, translational research, vaccine safety, and policy. More information on our training content opportunities can be found throughout our website.

The VTP has a strong, dedicated faculty and an expert advisory committee that assists with trainee selection. Our trainees have gone on to fill important roles in vaccinology research and related fields.

Thank you for visiting our website. I hope it will be a helpful resource as you learn about VTP. If you have additional questions, our program coordinator, Dianne Miller, will be happy to assist you. Dianne can be reached at 404-712-2467 or dmill06@emory.edu.

--Mark J. Mulligan, MD (Program Director)

How to Apply

Emory VTP – NIH T32

The Emory VTP will have open postdoctoral fellow positions (MD, PhD or MD-PhD) beginning July 1, 2017. The deadline for submission is December 16, 2016. Download announcement flyer (PDF)

Qualifications

  • MD, PhD, or MD-PhD (within 10 years of training)
  • Able to participate in up to two years of training
  • U.S. citizen, nationalized U.S citizen, or permanent resident of the United States (per NIH guidelines)
  • Able to commit full-time effort, defined as forty hours per week to the program and its related research activities

Trainees will perform a mentored vaccinology research project in one of four areas:

  • Pathogenesis and Vaccine Discovery
  • Innate and Adaptive Immunity to Antigens
  • Translation, Delivery, and Clinical Trials
  • Vaccine Epidemiology and Health Policy
  • Vaccine Safety

Salary

Trainees accepted into the VTP will receive the following:

  • An annual stipend at the appropriate NIH-specified level, based on years of postdoctoral experience
  • Travel allotment/research supplies
  • Tuition for three required courses (i.e. two graduate-level vaccinology courses and Responsible Conduct of Research Ethics course)

Application Process

Applicants are to review potential mentors listed by areas of study (located on the website). Send initial inquiry potential mentor to see if the mentor is taking on new fellows through the Emory VTP-T32 program, along with your CV and area of mutual interest.

Simultaneously, potential candidates should contact VTP Program Coordinator Dianne Miller at 404-712-2467 or at dmill06@emory.edu. Dianne will schedule a preliminary discussion with VTP Program Director Dr. Mark J. Mulligan or Program Co-Director Dr. Walter Orenstein.

All preliminary discussions must take place prior to November 15, 2016 in order to apply to the program.

After discussions with the program coordinator and director have taken place, eligible candidates will be encouraged to submit the following documents:

  • Cover letter specifying area of interest with statement of future goals/interest in a career in vaccinology, why they feel they are qualified for the fellowship, and what they hope to get out of the fellowship regarding a career in vaccinology
  • Current CV
  • A letter of support from the proposed mentor with the proposed mentor's NIH Bio-Sketch
  • Letter(s) of support from a recent mentor or collaborator
  • A two-page description of the proposed research project
  • MD applicants from clinical departments must also provide a letter from the candidate’s department/division chair indicating departmental commitment to provide protected time for the trainee applicant to devote full-time effort to the proposed research training

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION: December 16, 2016

Vaccinology Apply

Research Training Sections

Pathogenesis and Vaccine Discovery

This training area focuses on fundamental aspects of microbial transmission and disease induction and on applying new discoveries in this area to the design and evaluation of novel immunogens and immunization strategies. Viral assembly and entry mechanisms, mechanisms of viral and bacterial neutralization, animal models of viral pathogenesis, bacterial colonization and invasion mechanisms, particle-based vaccines for HIV and respiratory viruses, design and evaluation of enhanced live vector vaccines, and design and evaluation of malaria vaccines are current areas of emphasis. Studies of the molecular properties of transmissible HIV strains are providing new insight into vaccine design. Studies of influenza virus-host interactions are being applied to the development of more effective vaccines. Efforts are also underway to explore approaches to develop vaccines with an enhanced ability to elicit cross-protection against multiple influenza serotypes. New vaccine technologies under development include DNA vaccines, recombinant vector-based vaccines, recombinant proteins and virus-like particles, novel live-attenuated vaccines and transcutaneous immunization with antigen-coated microneedles.

Innate and Adaptive Immunity to Antigens

Resolution of natural infection results in B and T cell memory that provides life-long protection from re-infection. The generation and maintenance of these memory cells requires the concerted action of the innate and adaptive immune systems. Recent advances have begun to offer new insight into the mechanisms by which the innate immune system shapes adaptive immunity. An even deeper understanding of the innate immunological mechanisms that trigger adaptive responses will be key in realizing the full potential of vaccines, which attempt to safely mimic infections to generate protective memory while avoiding the deleterious consequences of infection. How the innate immune system senses microbes via specialized recognition receptors, how this process influences the quality of the immune response and immunological memory against pathogens or commensals, and how this process can be achieved via the use of adjuvants. Projects will be aimed at examining the relationship between the use of various adjuvants and the resulting quality of memory B and T cell formation, including isotype-switching among B cells, differentiation into various subsets among memory T cells, and anatomic distribution among all lymphocytes. Projects will also be aimed at understanding the innate immune mechanisms that mediate the efficacy of successful vaccines. Both systems biological and reductionistic approaches will be used to explore these issues.

Translation, Delivery, and Clinical Trials

Combining delivery, translation, and clinical trials underscores that the ultimate goal for NIH-funded biomedical vaccine research at all stages (pre-clinical, translational, and clinical) is the improvement of human health through the vaccine-based prevention of infectious diseases. Current work emphasizes major and resurgent infectious diseases, including AIDS, malaria, influenza, Staphylococcus aureus, pertussis, mumps, and Streptococcus. Other work is focused on reducing morbidity associated with highly effective vaccines (yellow fever, anthrax, smallpox).

Delivery of vaccines has commonly been performed by intramuscular injection. Novel methods that reproducibly access the rich milieu of antigen-presenting cells in skin structures using microneedle, microdermabrasion, and thermal ablation technologies are a current area of research. Another focus is on the development of novel immunogen constructs, such as virus-like particles, to closely mimic the pathogens.

Translation of a vaccine concept to an effective preclinical immunogen to a candidate vaccine suitable for a Phase I human trial involves a complex series of steps: a pipeline which can potentially be blocked at multiple points. Translational research training is available in vaccine conceptualization, initial laboratory work (vaccine construction and immunogen expression), animal immunogenicity and challenge studies, scaling up production of the vaccine (in collaboration with GeoVax, Inc., located adjacent to Emory), animal safety and toxicity studies, IND preparation and submission for FDA approval of the first human trial, and early phase human trials at the Hope Clinic of the EVC.  

Clinical trials of candidate vaccines are multidisciplinary efforts that involve reaching back into the vaccine pipeline to interact with vaccine developers (immunologists and microbiologists), regulatory bodies (FDA, IRB, COI), biostatisticians, and laboratories.  Training activities in the clinical environment include trial design, protocol writing, grant writing, FDA and IRB interactions, community outreach, clinical site management, behavioral considerations, study conduct by clinician-investigators, quality management of clinical trial data, specimen processing and tracking, statistical analyses, and manuscript and report preparation.

Vaccine Epidemiology and Health Policy

This area focuses on the epidemiology of vaccine-preventable diseases, including risk factors and transmission dynamics; estimating vaccine effectiveness in field settings; epidemiological and social determinants of barriers to improved immunization coverage; interventions to overcome such barriers; designing optimal vaccination strategies through mathematical modeling; and improving public and professional acceptance of increasingly complicated vaccination schedules. The nexus of scientific information and health policy will be the underlying theme of this focus area.

Vaccine Safety

This area focuses on vaccine safety with scholarly research in various CDC domains relevant to improving our understanding and enhancement of vaccine safety, ranging from basic science research to population-based evaluations. The aim is to increase understanding of the public’s perception of vaccines and vaccine safety and to encourage the career development of individuals who are interested in working in the field of vaccine safety. When available, the NIH NIAID and CDC ISO (Immunization Safety Office) offer this fellowship position as an added earmarked vaccine safety fellowship position to the NRSA T32 award to Emory through an MOU between the CDC and NIH, funded on a yearly basis by the CDC as government funding is identified and allocated. 

Training and Educational Opportunities

Responsible Conduct of Research (Ethics)

  • Course Description: N/A

Vaccines and Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (GH 571)

  • Course Description:
    This course will help fellows develop an in‐depth understanding of epidemiological, biological, and applied aspects of commonly used vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs) of public health importance. The course content will be structured to review specific vaccines and VPDs (rather than overarching aspects of immunization programs covered in GH 566/EPI 566). Where relevant, the course lectures will use examples from both developed and developing countries.

Immunization Programs and Policies (EPI 566)

  • Course Description:
    Provides an introduction to the entire spectrum of vaccines and immunization, including basic bench research through testing, licensure, and use; program design, implementation, and evaluation; and social, economic, and political factors affecting the use of vaccines. Primary emphasis will be on the international setting, but examples will also be taken from developed countries. Cross-listed with GH 566.

 

Mentors

View the attached PDF for a list of Emory VTP Mentors.

Fellow Publications (2009-present)

View the attached PDF for a list of Emory VTP Fellow Publications (2009-present).

Memories (Photos)

Download the attached PPT presentation to view a photo collage of past and current Emory VTP fellows and their mentors (2009-present).

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