SARS-CoV-2 immunology and vaccine development. We are investigating the use of dried-blood spots (DBS) to monitor the human immune response SARS-CoV-2 infection and vaccination. This project is a partnership with staff in the Bloodborne Viruses Laboratory at the Wadsworth Center, as well as with members of the Severe Respiratory Diseases Lab led by Dr. Kathleen McDonough and Diagnostic Immunology led by Dr. William Lee. The work is supported by an award from the National Cancer Institute’s Serological Sciences Network (SeroNet) to combat COVID-19. SeroNet is a national coordinated network of research projects, Centers of Excellence, COVID-19 Capacity Building Centers, and the Frederick National Lab Serology Laboratory. The Wadsworth Center’s project is aimed at advancing COVID-19 antibody technology to allow for comprehensive, population-wide studies in New York State and beyond. 

Pertussis: multivalent whole cell vaccine development. Bordetella pertussis causes whooping cough in humans with high severity in children, often leading to death. Despite available acellular pertussis vaccines, there has been a rampant rise in the number of global pertussis cases. We are developing and testing the compatibility, potency, and stability of new multivalent combination vaccine formulations with a whole cell pertussis component in collaboration with the Volkin Lab at Kansas University with the goal of inducing more durable protection and reducing overall vaccine costs.

Lyme disease: B cell epitopes and mechanisms of antibody function. With support from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), we are investigating the human antibody response to the Lyme disease agent, Borrelia burgdorferi. The program, which we call the Borrelitope Project, involves antibody discovery, structural biology, high-resolution epitope mapping, animal model development, microbial pathogenesis, and translational studies. The primary targets of interest are the Borrelia outer surface proteins OspA, OspC and DbpA. The long-term goal of the program is to develop an effective vaccine against Lyme disease. Partners include MassBiologics/University of Massachusetts Medical School, New York Structural Biology (NYSBC), and the University of Kansas.   

Ricin toxin: pathogenesis, immunity, vaccines and therapeutics. We have an active research program supported by NIAID aimed at the development of countermeasures against the biothreat agent, ricin toxin. Ricin is one of the most potent known biological toxins and is easily procured from the castor bean (Ricinus communis). The Mantis Laboratory has produced a comprehensive epitope maps of ricin’s enzymatic (RTA) and binding (RTB) subunits, identified neutralizing antibodies capable of protecting mice and non-human primates from toxin exposure, elucidated mechanisms of toxin-induced cell death and contributed toward the development of a ricin subunit vaccine. Partners include New York Structural Biology (NYSBC), Rutgers University, University of Oslo, Soligenix, Inc, and MappBio, Inc.

Salmonella and enteric infections. Salmonella and other enteric pathogens like Vibrio cholerae remain leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide, especially in children under the age of five. Our lab uses mouse models to study the role of mucosal antibodies, namely secretory IgA (SIgA), in preventing enteric infections and blocking bacterial entry into gastrointestinal tissues. With support from NIAID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation we have explored the potential of orally administered SIgA to passively immunize against Salmonella infections.