LJI team earns national attention for vaccine research

“Our project was recognized as having real potential, and our team has received support from people who really care.”

Two researchers pose in an LJI office
LJI Postdoctoral Fellow Rúbens Alves, Ph.D., and LJI Instructor Annie Elong Ngono, Ph.D.

LJI Professor Sujan Shresta, Ph.D., is working to mentor the next generation of vaccine researchers. “People in my lab are really motivated to make a difference in countries where viruses such as dengue are causing major problems,” she says.

This spring, members of her laboratory advanced past 1,000 initial competitors to win three top prizes in the Nucleate Activator competition. Their winning proposal outlined how the Shresta Lab’s self-amplifying RNA vaccine platform could serve as the backbone of a future biotech start-up—and lead to new vaccines for dengue and Zika virus.

The LJI-led team won Nucleate’s Alnylam Pharmaceuticals for Scientific Excellence Award; the Genentech Award for Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; and the MilliporeSigma Award for Global Impact.

“We were humbled by the jury’s reaction,” says LJI Postdoctoral Fellow Rúbens Alves, Ph.D., who worked on the Nucleate pitch alongside LJI Instructor Annie Elong Ngono, Ph.D., and collaborators at UC San Diego. “Our project was recognized as having real potential, and our team has received support from people who really care.”

Watch: Drs. Alves and Elong Ngono share their reactions to winning the 2023 Nucleate Awards. Video by LJI Visual Producer Matthew Ellenbogen

Nucleate is a student-led, non-profit organization dedicated to empowering early-stage, life-science startups and emerging biotech leaders. The Nucleate Activator program connects early career researchers with MBA students and entrepreneurs interested in supporting potential biotech start ups.

Learn more about the Shresta Lab’s vaccine research in our Fall 2023 Immune Matters cover story: Delivering better vaccines

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