Texas Biomedical Research Institute at San Antonio has announced that Dr. Ruth Ruprecht, a pioneer in the fields of AIDS-related research and vaccines, and breast cancer, has been appointed to the position of Scientist and Director of the AIDS Research Program in the Department of Virology and Immunology at Texas Biomed.
The Ruprecht Lab at Harvard’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has a longstanding track record in studying lentiviral pathogenesis and AIDS vaccine development, areas in which Dr. Ruprecht’s research has made important contributions, and is focused on primate immunodeficiency virus pathogenesis and AIDS vaccine development. Using passive immunization with broadly neutralizing monoclonal anti-HIV-1 antibodies in primates that were challenged with chimeric simian-human immunodeficiency viruses (SHIVs) carrying HIV-1 envelope genes, the Ruprecht Lab has demonstrated that infection is completely preventable, even after virus exposure. They now seek to induce
protective immunity with active vaccination. The Lab has also generated biologically relevant tools to develop vaccines against HIV-1 clade C, the world’s most prevalent HIV-1 subtype. Their bimodal vaccine strategy has achieved partial protection, including protection from viremia, in rhesus macaques against challenge with heterologous SHIVs that encode HIV-1 envelopes that are mismatched with regards to the immunogen. They are now developing immunogens designed to induce higher titers of neutralizing antibodies with increased breadth.
In another set of vaccine studies, Dr. Ruprecht’s lab has developed a peptide-based approach that is applicable for all members of a genetically heterogeneous population. In a murine model of breast cancer, targeting a cellular oncogene by an OSP vaccine yielded a highly significant survival benefit after tumor cell challenge with a dose of malignant cells that induced lethal pulmonary metastases within about two months in the control mice. Importantly, no side effects were noted in the vaccinated, protected mice after extended follow-up. The Lab’s OSP-vaccine strategy represents a promising new concept for the development of cancer vaccines.
Dr. Ruprecht is the director of a multi-institutional AIDS research program that involves collaborators in the United States, Europe, and Africa. Her expertise is in AIDS vaccine development and in diseases caused by so-called ‘slow’ viruses because they can remain inactive for several years. She is scheduled to start at Texas Biomed sometime in August.
“Dr. Ruprecht is a pioneer in developing novel and creative strategies for a vaccine against AIDS, and for preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV,” observes Dr. John VandeBerg, Ph.D., Texas Biomed’s chief scientific officer. “[Dr. Ruprecht] has established monkey models for pursuing these research initiatives, and she will continue to use those models after she moves here to the Department of Virology and Immunology and the Southwest National Primate Research Center.”
Dr. Ruprecht has also served as consultant for the World Health Organization and the China Comprehensive International Program for Research on AIDS, as a member of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) AIDS Research Advisory Committee and the NIAID Council, and as the US Chair of the US-Japan AIDS Panel. She is a member of several scientific advisory boards, including the National Cancer Institute’s Vaccine Branch and the China Centers for Disease Control.
“We have discovered a new mechanism by which certain antibodies can prevent AIDS virus infection in monkeys,” Dr. Ruprecht notes in the Texas Biomed release. “Joining Texas Biomed gives my group a wonderful opportunity to collaborate closely with experts in primate medicine at the Southwest National Primate Research Center. Together, we can really accelerate progress.”
After studying chemistry at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, Ruth Ruprecht received a Ph.D. in human genetics from Columbia University in New York, and an M.D. from the University of Miami School of Medicine. She completed training in internal medicine at UCLA and in hematology/oncology at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. In 1984, she joined the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School in Boston. In 2001, she received an Honorary Professorship from the Institute of Medical Biology, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, Peking Union Medical College, in Kunming in the People’s Republic of China.
Dr. Ruprecht’s research has been published in many high profile journals, including Science, Nature, Nature Medicine and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
In addition to her position at Texas Biomed, Ruprecht also will establish a laboratory in breast cancer research at UT Health Science Center San Antonio.
About The Texas Biomedical Research Institute
Texas Biomedical Research Institute, formerly the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research, is one of the world’s leading independent biomedical research institutions dedicated to advancing global human health through innovative biomedical research. Located on a 200-acre campus on the northwest side of San Antonio, Texas, the Institute partners with hundreds of researchers and institutions around the world, targeting advances in the fight against emerging infectious diseases, AIDS, hepatitis, malaria, parasitic infections and a host of other diseases, as well as cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, obesity, cancer, psychiatric disorders, and problems of pregnancy.
Since its founding in 1941 by San Antonio based inventor, businessman, adventurer, and oil business heir Thomas B. Slick Jr., the Texas Biomedical Research Institute has gained worldwide recognition in scientific and academic communities for the quality of its basic research. Each year, our scientists publish well over 100 articles in the international scientific literature. Their discoveries contribute important new information that helps advance the scientific community’s effort to improve health and save lives. Major research programs at Texas Biomed include studying cardiovascular disease and its associated risk factors; cancer; infectious diseases such as AIDS, hepatitis and herpes; new and emerging disease threats such as dengue, SARS and avian flu, and possible bioterror agents like anthrax and Ebola; the role of genetics in human diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, epilepsy, mental illness, and the pregnancy disorder preeclampsia; fetal growth and development; hormonal research; and behavioral medicine.
Before any new drug, vaccine or other medical breakthrough can come about, researchers must first make advances in basic research areas. Texas Biomed is where this research begins. The institution is Member of the Southwest Research Consortium in partnership with the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, the Southwest Research Institute, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and Trinity University, San Antonio.
In Texas Biomed’s sophisticated Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) laboratory, the country’s only privately owned full-size maximum containment lab, Texas Biomed virologists safely study deadly pathogens for which there are no treatments or vaccines. Access to the safest type of laboratory in the world has enabled our scientists to excel in the development and testing of novel strategies to detect these dangerous pathogens and to prevent and treat the disease they cause.
In 1999, Texas Biomed became the site of the country’s eighth National Primate Research Center, and the first to be established since the inception of the program and its original seven centers in the 1960s. This designation has allowed Texas Biomed to expand its role as a resource for other scientific institutions around the country. The Institute enjoys a distinguished history in the humane and appropriate use of nonhuman primates for biomedical research, with facilities accredited by an international accrediting organization and routinely inspected by three federal agencies responsible for assuring the proper care and use of laboratory Texas Biomed is home to the world’s largest baboon colony, with 2,000 baboons, of which 1,200 are part of a unique pedigreed colony, on which scientists have maintained family, genetic and medical histories for seven generations. The Institute also maintains more than 1,000 other primates, including a variety of other monkey species as well as a colony of about 170 chimpanzees, and is home to the world’s largest marsupial colony, with 2,200 fully pedigreed laboratory opossums.
Texas Biomed employs about 400, including a doctoral staff of approximately 85, a technical support staff of more than 125, and a general and administrative support staff of approximately 200 individuals. Texas Biomed scientists conduct research amid 480,000 square feet of space that includes laboratories, offices, an animal hospital, a library, and specially designed animal facilities, including two six-acre corrals. Soon Texas Biomed will have even more space dedicated to research, with construction underway began on a new building that will house additional laboratories and offices.
Approximately two-thirds of Texas Biomed’s budget is funded by competitive, peer-reviewed grants from the National Institutes of Health and other funding agencies, while another 11 percent comes from contracts with biotechnology and pharmaceutical firms. Remaining expenses are met by the generous contributions of foundations, corporations and individuals, as well as earnings from Texas Biomed’s permanent endowments.
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