As countries in Africa, the United States and elsewhere grapple with the outbreak of Ebola and other deadly diseases, the University of Rhode Island is preparing to bring some of the country’s most renowned vaccine researchers to the state. Beginning Monday, Oct. 13, the URI Institute for Immunology and Informatics will set the stage for its annual gathering, dubbed the Vaccine Renaissance Conference.
The yearly event brings the research community, academia and private industry together with the goals of engaging in intense discussion while forming new collaborations in the ongoing effort to combat the world’s diseases.
This comes as Ebola continues to ravage West Africa while also affecting Americans, including Rhode Island journalist Ashoka Mukpo, who is currently receiving treatment for Ebola at a facility in Nebraska. Also causing great concern in the U.S. is the growing number of cases of Enterovirus D68, a respiratory infection affecting several hundred people, mostly children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus has been detected in four people who have died.
The URI institute, also known as iCubed, is a vaccine research institute located on the University’s Providence campus. It applies cutting-edge bioinformatic tools to accelerate the development of treatments and cures for a number of diseases such as hepatitis C, Lyme disease and Dengue fever. iCubed also aims to quickly make these tools available to the global research community for the development of vaccines for other infectious diseases.
Next week’s conference is the eighth incarnation of the event and features its most elite speakers to date. Among this year’s guests are Dr. John Julias of the Department of Homeland Security, Dr. Stephen J. Thomas of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Health, and Dr. Thomas Nutman of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. Brown University and Massachusetts General Hospital will also be represented. U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse will deliver the opening remarks at Tuesday’s program.
The meeting is scheduled over the course of four days, the first three taking place in the Hotel Providence in downtown Providence. Monday, Oct. 13 will focus on JanusMatrix, a novel, computer-based tool developed by iCubed Director Dr. Annie De Groot.
The agenda for Tuesday, Oct. 14 and Wednesday, Oct. 15 will consist of lectures during several different sessions covering topics including “one health” diseases, or those affecting humans and animals. Infectious diseases, biodefense and cancer vaccines will also be covered in depth.
Following the conclusion of Wednesday’s program, iCubed will host an open house at Local 121 in Providence beginning at 6 p.m. The free event is both a celebration of the institute’s fifth year anniversary as well as an opportunity for the public to meet the institute’s faculty and staff and hear about the research taking place right here in Rhode Island.
The vaccine conference will conclude Thursday, Oct. 16 with iCubed’s TRIAD Toolkit Training on the URI Providence campus. This training consists of overviews of both computer-based informatics tools and laboratory procedures.
iCubed was established in 2009 with the help of a $13 million TRIAD grant from the National Institutes of Health. TRIAD, or the Translational Immunology Research and Accelerated Vaccine Development program, is based within the University’s biotechnology program.
For more information on iCubed or the Vaccine Renaissance Conference, please visit http://www.immunome.org/conferences/vaxren8/.