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Dr Fasseli Coulibaly - Recipient of the Grand Challenges Exploration Grant 2009

Fasseli Coulibaly

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have announced that Senior Research Fellow, Dr Fasseli Coulibaly will be a recipient of the Grand Challenges Exploration Grant 2009 for his proposal titled "MicroCubes as Vaccines for the Developing World".

This grant will allow Dr Coulibaly to test a new vaccination strategy based on protein crystals produced by common insect viruses harmless to humans.  These experiments will be conducted in collaboration with Assoc Professors Johnson Mak (Head, HIV Assembly group, Burnet Institute) and Rosemary Ffrench (Head, Viral Immunology group, Burnet Institute) providing their expertise in HIV assembly and vaccine development respectively.

Dr Coulibaly stated "Our atomic structure of these crystals provided insights into the outstanding stability of these natural microcontainers (Coulibaly et al., Nature 2007) and opportunities to engineer them to carry foreign molecules. We propose to apply this technology to deliver the HIV Gag protein to the immune system as a potential vaccine. This will be first tested in mice. Such a vaccine may elicit a strong cellular response thought to be necessary to protect against many diseases such as HIV and malaria. They may also be stable without refrigeration and relatively cheap making them especially attractive for the developing world."

Dr Coulibaly recently visited the Swiss Light Source in Switzerland.  This trip focused on his mainstream research regarding X-ray crystallography of viral proteins. Dr Coulibaly is pursuing the structure of a novel class of crystals produced by insect viruses. This should provide insight into virus evolution, in vivo protein crystallization and novel opportunities for protein engineering similar to the Gates Foundation project.