• UW researchers developing permanent flu vaccine score $45M donation

    By: MyNorthwest Staff

    Updated:

    SEATTLE - Researchers at the University of Washington recently received a $45 million dollar donation, and hope to apply part of it to the development of a permanent flu vaccine.

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    The donation comes from The Audacious Project, an organization that looks to fund projects that can effect positive change on a global scale. UW’s Institute for Protein Design certainly seems to fit that bill, with research that covers a broad gamut of potentially groundbreaking science.

    “Proteins are the miniature machines which carry out essentially all the important functions in us and in all living creatures,” said the institute’s director, David Baker. “But we face new problems today, and the goal of protein design is to the design new proteins that solve those new problems.”

    That includes a project in development to create a universal flu vaccine that provides permanent immunity from the illness. That in turn, could even break the door wide open for research on vaccines for HIV, cancer, and tons more.

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    That of course is all purely theoretical at this point, but work the institute is doing to design “smart” protein cells that can identify cancer cells is certainly a step in the right direction.

    “As we get better and better at designing proteins to perform specific tasks, it has become possible to have bold new approaches to solving some of the most vexing problems in medicine today,” described Baker.

    Ultimately, the hope is to create a center for research on par with the legendary Bell Laboratories, where revolutionary technology for satellites, cellular networks, and more were first developed.

    “We hope to attract some of the best and brightest from around the world to work on what we think is going to be a protein design revolution,” Baker said.

    With the money from the Audacious Project’s donation, the institute will look to bring on additional engineers and scientists to assist in its research and development.
     

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