Adam S. Lauring, MD, PhD, an assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Internal Medicine and in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Michigan Medical School, is this year’s recipient of the Pfizer Young Investigator Award in Vaccine Development. This award provides funding for outstanding research in vaccine development, either through clinical or laboratory investigation, to a candidate who demonstrates commitment to a career in vaccinology.
Dr. Lauring received a PhD in molecular biology in 2000, followed by a medical degree in 2002, both from the University of Washington in Seattle. He pursued his post-graduate clinical and research training at the University of California in San Francisco, where he completed a medical residency, an infectious diseases fellowship, and a postdoctoral fellowship in virology, in addition to serving for one year as chief medical resident in the Department of Medicine. In 2012, he became part of the faculty at the University of Michigan Medical School.
As a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Lauring demonstrated that mutational tolerance is important to RNA virus adaptation and that rare genetic variants can influence viral pathogenesis in important ways. His preliminary results, using a poliovirus animal model, motivated him to extend this work to the clinically relevant problem of influenza and vaccine escape. His proposed research will apply the same concepts to understanding how influenza viruses evade vaccine-induced immunity, likely a key contributor to the high failure rate of influenza vaccination. Vaccine efficacy is typically only 60 to 70 percent, even in years when the antigenic determinants in the trivalent influenza vaccine match those of circulating strains.
Dr. Lauring will use next generation sequencing and advanced bioinformatics to analyze influenza virus populations from infected individuals—both those vaccinated against influenza and those who were not—to understand how viral mutant networks behave under immune pressure. Dr. Lauring’s hypothesis is that selective pressures shape these networks in reproducible and predictable ways that determine a virus’s phenotype and its ability to escape vaccine-induced immunity.
By clarifying these viral mechanisms, the research will enable more accurate prediction of influenza’s evolutionary trajectory and provide knowledge critical for the development of more effective seasonal influenza vaccines in the future. Reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of Dr. Lauring’s research, he will also collaborate with investigators who are leaders in the modeling of high dimensional microbial datasets and influenza epidemiology.
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