Distinguished flu vaccine researcher receives awards from School of Medicine Dean and GRA
By Quinn Eastman | Woodruff Health Sciences Center | June 13, 2016
Emory influenza researcher Richard Compans, PhD, recently delivered the annual Dean’s Distinguished Faculty Lecture in Emory University School of Medicine. Chris Larsen, MD, DPhil, Dean of Emory University School of Medicine, presented Compans with the Dean’s Award.
At the same event, Michael Cassidy, President and CEO of the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), presented Compans with the GRA’s Catalyst Award. The Catalyst Award is given to a scientist whose work has helped progress research exploration, university collaboration, or university startup formation and growth in Georgia.
Compans is professor of microbiology and immunology in Emory School of Medicine and co-principal investigator of the NIH-supported Emory-UGA Center for Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance.
At Emory, Compans has led research on ways to improve influenza vaccination, such as vaccines based on non-infectious virus-like particles and microneedle patches for delivery, now being tested clinically.
The 2009 H1N1 flu epidemic, as well as concern about pandemic avian flu, have meant that Compans’ work has received considerable attention in the last several years. In his talk, he also discussed his early work on the structure of influenza virus, the virus’s complex ecology, and the limitations of current flu vaccines.
Compans was recruited to Emory from the University of Alabama, Birmingham in 1992 and was chair of Emory’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology for more than a decade. He also was instrumental in recruiting Rafi Ahmed to establish and lead the Emory Vaccine Center, with a $10 million commitment from the GRA to help with recruitment and building the center. The Vaccine Center is now one of the largest university-based vaccine centers in the world, including 280 scientists, five GRA Eminent Scholars, and more than $100 million in outside research funding.
“Richard Compans is a true champion of scientific discovery in Georgia,” says Cassidy. “We thank him for lighting and leading the way into vaccine exploration in our state.”
Some recent papers that illustrate the extent of Compans’ influence:
- Microneedles enable flu vaccine to be stored at room temperature for a year, or to withstand warm temperatures, without losing potency (with Mark Prausnitz of Georgia Tech)
- Skin vaccination – through microneedles – results in enhanced activity in young hosts
- Nanoclusters made up of the conserved viral protein M2 as potential universal flu vaccine (includes Bao-Zhong Wang)
- Virus-like particle approach applied to HIV, RSV and Ebola