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The Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute of Florida has appointed Ted M. Ross, Ph.D., as Program Director. Dr. Ross will explore new vaccine technologies intended to protect against all strains of seasonal influenza. Such a vaccine could potentially eliminate the need for seasonal flu shots.

Traditionally, the flu vaccine is a mixture of inactive influenza viruses. However, Dr. Ross is taking a novel approach by examining the use of a synthetic vaccine created from genetic sequences of many different flu viruses. Dr. Ross previously used this method to produce a vaccine against the H5N1 virus, commonly known as the bird flu. The vaccine, well-tolerated in pre-clinical trials, successfully protects against known strains of bird flu. Dr. Ross and his VGTI Florida colleagues are applying similar strategies to fight other serious viruses such as West Nile Virus, Dengue and HIV Type 1 (HIV-1).

“The ‘holy grail’ of influenza vaccine research is a vaccine that protects against all influenza strains, avoiding the need for annual vaccinations,” said Jay Nelson, Ph.D., founder and Executive Director, VGTI Florida. “We’re genuinely excited that Dr. Ross has joined us. His extensive background in immunology and microbiology will further benefit our efforts to develop vaccines that can help people with influenza, especially the elderly,” added Dr. Rafick Sékaly, Chief Scientific Officer and Co-Director of the institute.

Most recently, Dr. Ross was an Associate Professor, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, where he served in the Microbiology and Molecular Genetics department and was a full member of the Center for Vaccine Research. Prior to that, he was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at East Carolina University, School of Medicine in North Carolina.

Dr. Ross has co-authored numerous scientific articles published in journals such as Nature Immunology, The Journal of Virology, Journal of Infectious Disease, Vaccine, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He is a member of the American Society for Virology, American Society of Microbiology, Sigma Xi, International Society of Vaccines, and others. He holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Arkansas in Zoology and Microbiology, respectively. Dr. Ross earned his Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in Microbiology & Immunology. Additionally, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow in HIV Research at Duke University and a Senior Research Associate in HIV Vaccine Research at Emory University.

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