LSU Vet School To Produce Coronavirus Vaccines For Testing

LSU School of Veterinary Medicine (LSU SVM) researchers are performing significant research on coronaviruses with the goal of producing a vaccine for testing that could soon be used for prevention of human cases of the virus.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that exist in both humans and animals, producing symptoms that include respiratory and enteric disorders and persistent infections. Vaccination against animal and human coronavirus is a major approach to contain and prevent these infections. The new human pathogen SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) appeared in late 2019 in the urban center of Wuhan in China. The virus has a 75 to 80 percent similarity to the genetic sequence of SARS CoV, a similar virus that causes severe acute respiratory disease syndrome (SARS) in a human outbreak in 2003.

The Division of Biotechnology & Molecular Medicine (BIOMMED) at the LSU SVM has extensive experience with animal coronavirus research. Konstantin “Gus” Kousoulas, PhD, head of the Department of Pathobiological Sciences (PBS) and director of BIOMMED, has performed significant studies on bovine coronaviruses (BCoV), including their association with cattle lung disease and investigations on the structure of function of both BCoV and SARS viral proteins. BIOMMED Associate Director and Research Associate Professor Vladimir Chouljenko, PhD, conducts research involving analysis of viral genomes and the cloning of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike (S) glycoprotein to investigate its structure and function, considered a key step in understanding viral pathogenesis (how the virus develops) and protective immune responses. These investigations are carried out in collaboration with the Tauber Bioinformatics Research Center at the University of Haifa, Israel (Leonid Brodsky, PhD, Director) and Pine Biotech, Inc. in New Orleans.

The extensive biomedical research conducted at the LSU SVM, including the presence of the Lung Biology Center, led by Samithamby “Jey” Jeyaseelan and Rhonda Cardin, and recently funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of General Medical Sciences as a Center for Biomedical Research Excellence, provides an accelerated pathway to a vaccine that could be used for both human and animal infections by coronaviruses. The goal, according to Kousoulas, is to have a human vaccine ready for testing in a matter of months.

The LSU School of Veterinary Medicine is one of only 30 veterinary schools in the U.S. and the only one in Louisiana. The LSU SVM is dedicated to improving the lives of people and animals through education, research, and service.

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