An illustration of the coronavirus. Courtesy National Institutes of Health

A team led by La Jolla researcher Erica Ollmann Saphire has received a $2.6 million grant to help develop a vaccine effective against the entire family of coronaviruses and give protection against future outbreaks.

Saphire’s research is a key part of the project led by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston to create “durable pan-coronavirus immunity.” The overall effort has received more than $11.8 million over three years and includes collaborators at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“Rather than having to constantly launch new vaccines, we need a single vaccine that’s going to protect against SARS-CoV-2 variants and whatever coronavirus emerges next,” said Saphire, president of the La Jolla Institute for Immunology.

Her team is focused on finding portions of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein structure that could also be targeted on other types of coronaviruses.

Work in the Saphire Lab will be spearheaded by postdoctoral fellow Eduardo Olmedillas, a structural virologist who has developed a more accurate version of the virus’ spike structure.

“Stabilizing these parts of spike helps us elicit more protective, broadly reactive antibodies,” says Saphire, who also leads the Coronavirus Immunotherapy Consortium.

The La Jolla Institute for Immunology was founded in 1988 as an independent, nonprofit research organization.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.