Prof C Durga Rao receives a grant to enhance vaccine efficacy at a reduced cost

Prof C Durga Rao (Principal Investigator), Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, and Associate Dean, Sciences, Department of Biological Sciences, SRM University-AP, Andhra Pradesh has received a total outlay of Rs. 1,10,52,941/- from the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, to work on the project titled “Understanding the molecular basis for the extreme differential level of expression of genes from human and animal rotaviruses in gene-transfected cells: Implications for improving the growth of human vaccine strains”. Using the grant, the professor will be spawning the appropriate facilities to perform cell culture and virus-related research at SRM University-AP.

Understanding how a virus overpowers the host resistance mechanisms and seizes the host cellular processes for its own growth is very challenging and is essential for the development of not only efficient viral vaccines but also for antiviral therapeutic strategies. Prof Durga Rao informs, “Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe and acute dehydrating diarrhoea in infants and children below 5 years of age. Efforts by us and Dr Bhan, former Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, led to the discovery and development of the first made in India rotavirus vaccine, produced by Bharat Biotech, Hyderabad.”

In the earlier project, the professor Rao observed that while some human rotaviral proteins could be expressed at high levels when the cloned genes were introduced into mammalian cells, other proteins could not be expressed at detectable levels. However, the virus expresses copious amounts of all its proteins when it infects the cells. Prof Durga Rao further shares, “Within a few hours of infection, each virus employs several ploys in the infected cell to subvert the cellular defence and regulatory mechanisms and captures the host for its own progeny production.”

Based on the earlier observations, this project will advance to unravel the tricks employed by the virus, and viral transactions in the infected cells. The outcome of the project will have implications for genetically engineering the poorly growing human vaccine strains for their efficient growth in cell culture, leading to reduced cost of not only rotavirus vaccines, but also other viral vaccines.

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