Iowa State researchers receive CARES Act grant to research COVID-19 nanovaccine

Nanovaccine Institute Director Balaji Narasimhan inside one of the Institute’s labs in the Advanced Teaching and Research Building.

Gwen Davis

Iowa State researchers at the Nanovaccine Institute received a $2 million grant from the CARES Act to apply their current research to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Iowa State researchers have been working with colleagues from the University of Iowa for decades. Using University of Iowa’s medical expertise and Iowa State’s technological knowledge and resources to create a nanovaccine alternative to the vaccines that exist today. Their research is in the preclinical process and is not expected to debut until the first COVID-19 vaccine is released.

Iowa State and the University of Iowa have an “easy working relationship,” said Kevin Legge, an immunologist at the University of Iowa. The two schools are working collaboratively to create the COVID-19 nanovaccine.

Nanovaccines are a new way to administer vaccines and other preventative medicines. They are a highly technologically advanced way of inserting nanoparticles into the body without overwhelming the medical system.

“[It is a] platform technology that allows us to address a variety of diseases,” said Mike Wannemuehler, professor in the department of vet microbiology and preventive medicine at Iowa State.

The two institutions have taken the versatility of their technology to apply it to the COVID-19 vaccine, which had been originally researched as a preventative measure for the flu.

There are many benefits to using nanovaccines compared to typical vaccines. The difference lies in the way the nanovaccine is normally stored and distributed. Nanovaccines are single dose vaccines, producing immunity locally and systemically. They are needle-free and can be at room temperature, while also maintaining a long shelf life and providing long-term immunity from disease.

As the world is working to relieve the effects of the pandemic, these researchers are doing their part in that effort.

Researchers are responding to the “need of the hour […] everyone needs to step up and do what they can,” said Balaji Narasimhan, distinguished professor of the Nanovaccine Institute.

Contributing to this influential time has placed new time restrictions on the researchers, but the nanovaccine will not be ready soon. It is predicted to be released as a second generation vaccine to the upcoming vaccines. This means it will most likely be distributed to the public after the initial wave of vaccines are given out.

Nanovaccines could be beneficial to slowing down the spread of COVID-19 and creating long-term immunity for public safety.