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OVC’s Dr. Sarah Wootton Awarded Federal Health Funding


March 21, 2022

Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) professor Dr. Sarah Wootton is one of two University of Guelph researchers recently awarded project grant funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

The OVC Department of Pathobiology professor received a one-year, $100,000 award to continue developing an alternative for people whose immune systems do not respond effectively to vaccines.

Wootton studies vectored immunoprophylaxis (VIP), a promising alternative to traditional vaccines, especially for people with weak or impaired immune systems.

Traditional vaccines introduce antigens to the body, which the immune system defends against by producing protective antibodies. However, a compromised immune system may not respond fully to a vaccine.

VIP instead delivers the genetic blueprint of the antibody. Cells immediately begin to produce the antibody, which has been designed to attack a disease-causing pathogen. VIP provides a rapid, robust and continual immune response without exposing the body to the pathogen.

Central to the VIP mechanism is the vector, or vehicle, used to carry the genetic information into the body.

For this phase of the project, Wootton will work with Darwyn Kobasa of the Public Health Agency of Canada in Winnipeg to assess the capabilities of an adeno-association virus (AAV) vector developed at U of G. It is a crucial step toward moving their project from animal models to clinical trials.

“VIP has so many potential applications for human health: HIV, Ebola, antimicrobial pathogens like antibiotic resistant bacteria, treatment for cancer and autoimmune diseases, and another tool for quickly combatting emerging infectious diseases,” said Wootton.

Dr. Marica Bakovic, a professor in the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, in U of G’s College of Biological Sciences, received a five-year, $803,250 award to increase fundamental understanding of a just discovered genetic neurodegenerative condition. CONATAC is caused by a single genetic mutation, which impairs the body’s ability to metabolize lipids and transport the nutrient choline across cell membranes. These functions are both essential to normal brain function and muscle control.

Read the full news release on the University of Guelph website.

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