Campus: CSU Bakersfield -- November 08, 2002
CSU Bakersfield Valley Fever Project Advances
The Valley Fever Research Project coordinated by California State University,
Bakersfield has crossed a new threshold, project director Richard Hector
The project has contracted with the Colorado Bioprocessing Center at
Colorado State University to clone particular antigens identified by
project researchers to produce the antigens in larger quantities for
further testing and research.
"This marks a major change," Hector told the Council of 100
at its Wednesday meeting at CSUB. The Council of 100 is a group of area
business and community leaders who meet quarterly with CSUB officials
to learn of the resources the university can provide. "This marks
a change from a research process to a developmental process."
The contract with Colorado State University will help "determine
the optimal conditions under which the producing host should be grown
and the resultant protein antigen purified,_ Hector said. _The process
will provide a recipe for manufacturing. This is a pilot manufacturing
process with the goal of developing a method that can be transferred
and scaled for a commercial process."
The valley fever project has come a long way since it began in 1997,
to the point where Hector is optimistic that it will eventually produce
a vaccine. "Will there be a vaccine?" he asked rhetorically?
"Yes, but it will require time, effort, funds - and to a certain
extent luck. What's the time frame? Our short-term goal is to have a
phase-one vaccine – one for preliminary trials - by 2004. But
I don't want to mislead anyone about a vaccine's availability any time
soon, because this is a long path.
Hector said that the five scientists searching for a vaccine have developed
two approaches. "The main approach is cloning antigens," he
said. "We have found three antigens that have potential as a human
vaccine. We're also studying the genomics, examining what the fungus's
gene function is."
The genomic research - analyzing sequence information for identifying
genes encoding new antigens - is being conducted by one of the project's
investigators at the San Diego Veterans Administration Medical Center.
Recently, The Valley Fever Vaccine Project of the Americas, a Rotary
Club International District 5240 project, donated $45,000 to the CSUB
Foundation for genomic database support at the San Diego VA Medical
The Rotary Club's Valley Fever Vaccine Project of the Americas was begun
in 1995 by a group of Rotarians who were determined that promising vaccine
research should be funded. The specific and primary purpose for which
the corporation was formed is to engage in charitable activities and
the solicitation of funds sufficient to fund the research, development
and clinical testing of a vaccine for Valley Fever.
Valley Fever is caused by a fungus, coccidioides immitis, which exists
in the soil in various areas of the American Southwest, northern Mexico
and Central and South America that have arid or semiarid conditions
and hot summers with mild, non-freezing winters. Kern County, southern
Arizona, and parts of West Texas have particularly high incidence rates
for the disease.
The disease has been recognized as a significant medical entity since
the 1890s, and its association with the San Joaquin Valley, particularly
Kern County, was realized during the first three decades of the 20th
The Valley Fever Vaccine Project began in 1997 after a major Valley
Fever outbreak from 1991 through 1994 renewed interest in vaccine development.
Members of the Bakersfield business and medical communities formed the
Valley Fever Research Foundation to develop a plan to hasten vaccine
development. They enlisted the Center for Biomedical Research at CSUB
and its director, Duane Blume, to conduct a feasibility study on the
potential for a vaccine. Blume's study concluded that prospects were
excellent and would be greatly enhanced by a collaborative research
program by the five leading scientists in Valley Fever research:
- Dr. Garry Cole, professor and chairman of the Department of Microbiology
at the Medical College of Ohio in Toledo.
- Dr. Rebecca Cox, adjunct professor of microbiology at the University
of Texas Health Science Center and director of the Laboratory of Clinical
Investigation at the Texas Center for Infectious Disease.
- Dr. John Galgiani, professor of medicine at the University of Arizona
and founder and director of the Valley Fever Center for Excellence
at the University of Arizona.
- Dr. Theo Kirkland III, assistant director of the microbiology laboratory
and a staff physician at the Veterans Administration Medical Center
in San Diego, a member of the Center of Molecular Genetics at the
University of California, San Diego, and associate professor of pathology
and medicine in residence, Division of Infectious Diseases at UCSD.
- Dr. Demosthenes Pappagianis, professor in the Department of Medical
Microbiology and Immunology at the University of California, Davis
School of Medicine.
"This is a chronic, insidious disease, a terrible disease,"
Hector said. "Through the efforts of people here at CSUB and in
Bakersfield we're optimistic that we will develop a vaccine."
CONTACT: Mike Stepanovich, 661/664-2456, firstname.lastname@example.org