Broad and Ragon Award First ENDHIV Collaborative Grants

Broad and Ragon Award First ENDHIV Collaborative Grants

Sep 25

The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard are pleased to announce the newly established ENDHIV Collaborative grants, one-year, $100K grants designed to spark collaborations and to foster new scientific directions for scientists at both Institutes.


For the first round of proposals, which were accepted between May and July of 2014, grants were awarded to two collaborative teams of researchers:

  • Drs. Boris Juelg, M.D., Ph.D. (Ragon) and Alon Goren, Ph.D. (Broad)
  • Dr. Daniel Lingwood, Ph.D. (Ragon) and Steven A Carr, Ph.D. (Broad)
The beauty of these peer-reviewed innovation grants is that they can fund projects which may be viewed as too risky by traditional funding agencies. However, it is the philosophy of the Broad and Ragon that it is precisely these high risk projects which carry with them the potential for highest reward.


The overall goal of the ENDHIV Collaborative Grants is to integrate approaches rooted in biomedical research with those emerging from the physical sciences and engineering technology, and to create new cross-disciplinary synergies among faculty. These synergies may take many forms, including:


  • pursuing transformative science that addresses major hurdles for the field,
  • creating new communities and collaborations by bringing together investigators across Boston/Cambridge to tackle important problems together and/or by bringing new scientific perspectives into the Broad-Ragon community,
  • creating new capabilities (technologies or experimental approaches) of broad interest to the Broad-Ragon community,
  • creating scientific resources (data or reagents) of broad interest to the Broad-Ragon community.


For these awards, the review board was specifically looking for proposals that had the potential to push both institutes in a new direction and to broadly benefit the scientific community. Each proposal represented a collaboration between a Ragon investigator and a Broad investigator.


The proposal of Drs. Lingwood and Carr focused on adjuvants, vaccine components employed to enhance the vaccine’s ability to induce protection against infection.


Says Dr. Daniel Lingwood,”Adjuvants are needed for effective vaccine immunogenicity, yet the FDA limits their use clinically. We have found that certain clinically approved vaccine components act to stimulate antigen naïve B cells through lectin-like activity. We aim to define the carbohydrate signature that underscores this mode of activation and apply this as an adjuvant target to improve antibody responses elicited by HIV subunit vaccines.”


The proposal of Drs. Juelg and Goren, focused firmly on vaccine development, particularly the durability of vaccine-induced immune responses.


“To date, vaccines represent the greatest public health intervention, saving millions of lives annually on a global level,” explained Dr.Boris Juelg. “However in the case of current HIV vaccine candidates it has become apparent that largely induced immune responses decay rapidly following final immunization. Hence, key to the design of long-lived protective (HIV)-vaccine strategies is a better understanding of the rules by which durable immunity is programmed.”


The proposal by Drs. Juelg and Goren hypothesizes that differential epigenetic signatures underlie the durability of vaccine-induced immune responses and proposes to optimize state-of the art technology for analysis of small subsets of vaccine specific B-cells and to apply these technologies to the comparison of epigenetic profiles induced by long-lived and short-lived vaccines, with the goal of building a road-map to guide the rational design of future vaccines.”


“With support from the ENDHIV grant, we can examine what controls the length of immunization after vaccination, specifically epigenomic factors, and yield insight for designing improved vaccines in the future,” said Dr. Alon Goren.


The Broad and Ragon began their collaboration in 2010, based on their shared passion for creating synergies across disciplines. Both Institutes have high hopes for the outcomes of the new collaborations and tools borne of the ENDHIV Grants.


“We believe that an HIV vaccine is an achievable goal,” said Ragon Institute Director, Dr. Bruce Walker. “Cross-disciplinary collaborations are exactly what is needed to accelerate progress. This partnership between Broad and Ragon will bring us an important step further toward this goal.”