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ITQB NOVA receives inventor of Meningococcus B vaccine

On June 12th, Mariagrazia Pizza gives a talk within the Institute’s 25th anniversary cycle

On Wednesday, June 12th, one of the most renowned experts in vaccinology worldwide gives a talk at ITQB NOVA. Mariagrazia Pizza, Senior Scientific Director for Bacterial Vaccines at GSK Vaccines, will discuss “New Frontiers for Vaccinology” within the “Science and Challenges for the Future” cycle, which celebrates the 25th anniversary of ITQB NOVA.

Mariagrazia Pizza was responsible for developing the Meningococcus B vaccine, known as Bexsero, made available in 2013. Bexsero is the first ever vaccine against Meningitis B to be approved to market, closing a 40-year failure cycle. The feat was only possible due to the methodology known as reverse vaccinology, which uses the pathogen’s sequenced genome to find potential antigens. In 2015, the vaccine was introduced in the United Kingdom’s routine immunisation schedule, being administered to new-borns all over the country. In Portugal, parliament has recommended the inclusion of Bexsero in the National Vaccination Plan. Pizza was also involved in the development of the first acellular vaccine for pertussis, a disease that kills thousands of children worldwide every year.

In her talk, Pizza will discuss how important discoveries and the development of new and sophisticated technologies have advanced the design of vaccines against infections for which preventive measures did not exist. The researcher points out that “today new antigens can be identified through genome analysis. Structural biology and human immunology are shedding light on the molecular basis of a protective immune response, and guiding the structure-based design of more stable and more immunogenic antigens.”

Pizza was the first author of the paper Identification of Vaccine Candidates Against Serogroup B Meningococcus by Whole-Genome Sequencing, with co-authors Craig Venter, Rino Rappuoli and others, published in 2000 in Science. She was also the first author of Mutants of pertussis toxin suitable for vaccine development, published in 1989 in Science.  

The Science and Challenges for the Future cycle celebrates the 25th anniversary of ITQB NOVA.  The closing talk will take place on the 20th of September, with a Keynote by Nobel Laureate Kurt Wüthrich.


Science and the Challenges for the Future: New Frontiers for Vaccinology

Mariagrazia Pizza, GSK Vaccines

12th of June 2019 – 11h

ITQB NOVA Auditorium

Read the full abstract

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