Ziegler Award Presentations
Steven Frey (Best Paper)
Jaeyoung Park (Best PhD Proposal)
Frey Abstract: "Multivalent Vaccines that Protect Hamsters Against SARS-CoV-2"
Abstract: The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 was first identified in 2019 and has since had a devastating impact on world health, resulting in an obvious and urgent need for a vaccine. In response, we developed nanoparticle-based vaccines that display multiple copies of the SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) protein. The use of these nanoparticle vaccines generated high neutralizing antibody titers and protected Syrian hamsters from a challenge with SARS-CoV-2 after a single immunization with no infectious virus detected in the lungs. While these and other S-based vaccines are currently effective, mutations to the S protein have already been shown to reduce vaccine efficacy. It may therefore be beneficial to develop a vaccine in which the protective immune response targets a relatively conserved region of the S protein. Accordingly, we have demonstrated the efficacy of an immunogen based on the conserved S2 subunit of the S protein. Hamsters immunized with S2-based constructs conjugated to virus-like particles (VLPs) were protected from a challenge with SARS-CoV-2. Moreover, the immunization elicited broadly cross-reactive antibodies that recognized the spike proteins of the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.351, SARS-CoV-1, and the four endemic human coronaviruses. These results provide a framework for designing S2-based vaccines that elicit broad protection against coronaviruses.
Frey Bio: Steven Frey received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan in 2016 and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Georgia Tech in the summer of 2021. At Georgia Tech, Steven worked in the Kane Lab where his research involved engineering viral protein antigens to direct the humoral immune response to conserved epitopes. This work may have application in the design of broadly protective vaccines. Since graduating from Georgia Tech, Steven has started work in biopharmaceutical downstream process development at GSK.
Park Abstract: "Developing New Vaccine Platforms to Preserve Structure of Antigens as a Strategy to Enhance Effectiveness of Universal Flu Vaccines"
Since a zoonotic H1N1 influenza pandemic killed over 50 million people in 1918, flu vaccines have not been able to provide cross-protection against non-seasonal pandemic influenza viruses. In addition, flu vaccine effectiveness varies each season and has remained only 10-60%. The insufficient effectiveness and fluctuations are mainly due to the mutations in influenza strains. The current flu vaccine largely relies on either inactivated virus or attenuated virus to provide protection. Such a vaccine platform cannot effectively address the problem associated with mutating influenza. As a result, the influenza vaccine must be updated annually and, thus, there is a need for the development of alternate vaccine platforms which can induce cross-protection against different variants of influenza viruses, both seasonal and pandemic. While highly conserved influenza antigens can be incorporated into subunit vaccines, the antigens are often less immunogenic than those that are prone to mutations. The main challenge, therefore, is developing a vaccine platform that can present conserved, but low immunogenic antigens in a way that enhances their immunogenicity to fully activate the adaptive immune system. Previously, our lab successfully developed universal flu vaccines using desolvent such as ethanol, but desolvation can compromise antigen structures. This proposal seeks to develop a desolvent-free subunit vaccine platform in Aim 1 to preserve the native structure of flu antigens. We hypothesize that retention of native structure will enhance humoral immune responses because recognition of antigens by B cell receptors is sensitive to structures of antigenic determinants. Alternatively, Aim 2 will focus on the design and development of self-assembling recombinant vaccines. The properties of self-assembling vaccine nanoparticles, including size and valency, can be tuned to increase activation of both antigen-specific B cells and T cells. After the development and optimization of vaccine platforms using primarily model antigens, Aim 3 will incorporate highly conserved flu antigens, which we hypothesize will trigger broad protection with enhanced vaccine effectiveness against influenza.
Park Bio: Before he joined Champion’s lab, he started his first research experience at the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis under the direction of Professor Alexis Bell. His interest in the field of microbial engineering led him to join the Keasling Laboratory in Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) which is a part of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. At JBEI, he learned the necessary skills to genetically engineer plasmid to integrate new DNA fragments into the circular DNA sequence for the production of terpenes especially bisabolene and taxadiene which are a biofuel and an anti-cancer agent respectively.
After he completed his BS degree in Chemical Engineering at UC Berkeley in 2017, he started his MS degree in Johns Hopkins University and finished his MS thesis titled “Optimizing Growth and Productivity of Mammalian Cells for Immunotherapeutic Applications” under the supervision of Dr.Michael Betenbaugh. He was also co-advised by Dr. Marc Donohue during his MS degree to model thermodynamic prediction of phase equilibria of nutrient mixtures to optimize cell culture media formulation.
In 2019, he joined Dr.Julie Champion’s lab and successfully passed qualification exam in 2020. His research focuses on the development and fabrication of vaccine nanoparticles especially against influenza virus. His goal is to enhance effectiveness of universal flu vaccines by preserving structure of antigens. He was also a recipient of academic awards including MOGAM Science Scholarship for International Students, ChemBE Master’s Essay Scholarship in Johns Hopkins University, and Exemplary Academic Achievement Award in Georgia Tech.
About the Ziegler Awards:
The Waldemar T. Ziegler Awards were established by the family and friends of the late Waldemar T. Ziegler to honor his lifelong commitment to academic excellence and research. Ziegler was on the faculty of the School of Chemical Engineering from 1946 until his retirement in 1978, when he was named Regents’ Professor emeritus. He died in 1996, leaving behind a legacy of outstanding research in the fields of cryogenics and thermodynamics. Ziegler was instrumental in establishing both the School’s and Georgia Tech’s reputations for outstanding research.
Two individual Ziegler Awards are presented annually to graduate students. The Ziegler Award for Best Paper began in 1998, and the Ziegler Award for Best Proposal began in 2005.
See Ziegler Awards page for more details and previous winners.