Overview

The Vaccine Research Group works to improve the health of individuals across the world by pursuing challenges posed by infectious diseases and bioterrorism through clinical, laboratory and epidemiologic vaccine research.

Formally founded in 1989 by Gregory A. Poland, M.D., of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., the Vaccine Research Group is organized under the Clinical Pharmacology unit in the Department of Medicine. Today, led by Dr. Poland, the group conducts National Institutes of Health-funded research investigating the immunogenetics of vaccine response, while also conducting clinical studies of novel vaccines and adjuvants in adults and children.

The Vaccine Research Group uses immunological testing, including serology, cell-mediated immunity, cell culture and cytokine assays; PCR techniques and HLA typing for immunogenetic studies; and high-throughput assays, such as next-generation sequencing, transcriptomics and proteomic analysis.

Robert M. Jacobson, M.D., heads the group's clinical trials component, which conducts trials that include anthrax and smallpox vaccine studies.

Feature story

Vaccine Defense and Defense Vaccines

Mayo Clinic vaccinologist Gregory A. Poland, M.D., came home one evening and was met by his then 6-year-old son.

"Daddy, I wish you worked at a chocolate factory."

"And why is that?"

"Because right now you work at a shot factory, and we have to get shots. If you worked at a chocolate factory, we would get candy."

While Dr. Poland tells this story often, he quickly adds that in America the average 10-year-old will have received 38 doses of vaccines. And that, he says, is a very good thing.

"We've prevented them from getting the diseases that routinely took kids' lives," Dr. Poland says. The "shot factory" is Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group, which Dr. Poland founded and continues to guide in its third decade. He is also the Mary Lowell Leary Professor of Medicine and Professor of Medicine, Infectious Diseases, and Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at Mayo. Dr. Poland also directs Mayo's Program in Translational Immunovirology and Biodefense, and is editor-in-chief of the journal Vaccine.

The Vaccine Research Group is comprised of two dozen people, ranging from M.D. and Ph.D. investigators to technicians and other lab staff, nurses, statisticians and administrative personnel. One of the largest vaccine research groups in the world, it is also prolific, averaging a research article every 10 to 14 days.

Read more in Discovery's Edge, Mayo Clinic' research magazine.