Discovery could lead to lifelong flu vaccine

In a virtual dead heat, two teams of local scientists working independently have announced the discovery of a human antibody that neutralizes multiple strains of the influenza virus. The findings bolster hopes for development of a universal vaccine to convey lifelong protection against a majority of flu viruses.

The Burnham Institute of Medical Research, with colleagues in Boston and Atlanta, published its work in the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology on Feb. 22. Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute and a Dutch biopharmaceutical company reported their discovery in Science Express, the online version of the journal Science, on Feb. 26.

Both teams identified human antibodies that bind to the stems of mushroom-shaped proteins that coat flu viruses, rendering the virus unable to fuse with (and infect) a host cell.

Finding CML trigger

Scientists at the Moores Cancer Center at UCSD and other centers have identified a mechanism by which a chronic form of leukemia can progress into a deadlier stage of the disease. The ability to detect when chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is developing to the “blast crisis” stage will enable physicians to make more accurate prognoses and better treatment choices.

The discovery, in mice models, revealed the role of a faulty molecular off-switch in chronic stage CML cells that sets up a cascade effect leading to the more dangerous stage of the disease. Knowing the mechanism now presents a target for potential therapy. The findings are reported in the online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Managing computer data

Researchers from the San Diego Supercomputer Center at UCSD have been awarded a two-year, $450,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to explore new ways for academic researchers to manage extremely large data sets hosted on massive, Internet-based commercial computer clusters (so-called “cloud” computing).

Cloud computing describes any subscription-based or pay-per-use service that, in real time over the Internet, extends information technology capabilities without the need to invest in new infrastructure, train new personnel, or license new software.

The ever-increasing volume of scientific data is beginning to overwhelm current data management approaches. Under the grant, the center’s researchers will explore the use of computer clouds to expand and manage large-scale scientific data sets; evaluating the trade-offs, advantages and disadvantages compared to traditional, more static database management.