Vital Record Your source for health news from the Texas A&M Health Science Center 2014-07-24T17:03:48Z https://news.tamhsc.edu/feed/atom/ Katie Hancock http://nursing.tamhsc.edu/ <![CDATA[College of Nursing fills primary care gap with launch of new Family Nurse Practitioner program]]> https://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=20835 2014-07-24T17:03:48Z 2014-07-24T15:41:54Z The Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing has announced plans for a Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner (M.S.N.-FNP) graduate program]]>
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The M.S.N.-FNP was recently approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and is expected to launch in January 2015, pending final approval from the Texas Board of Nursing.

The Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing has announced plans for a Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner (M.S.N.-FNP) graduate program. This program was recently approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and is expected to launch in January 2015, pending final approval from the Texas Board of Nursing.

The United States health care system is currently facing a shortage of primary care physicians. This shortage, coupled with a growing aging population and the entrance of newly insured individuals (through federal legislation), will increase the demand for primary care services. The physician shortage is of particular importance in Texas where the state falls below the national average with just 165 physicians for every 100,000 individuals.

“In an effort to alleviate this shortage, our family nurse practitioner program will produce nurses who can provide primary, acute and specialty health care,” said Texas A&M College of Nursing Dean Sharon A. Wilkerson, Ph.D., RN, CNE, ANEF. “Our graduates will be competent and dedicated practitioners responsible for managing the care of families with a holistic approach that emphasizes both care and cure through cutting-edge science.”

Like registered nurses, nurse practitioners perform thorough assessments, but also have the ability to diagnose patients, prescribe treatments and medications, and take charge of the patient’s overall care.

In recognition of the value of nurse practitioners, there has been an increase in job opportunities for nurses with M.S.N.-FNP degrees. Currently, about 190,000 nurse practitioners practice in the United States. Looking ahead, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated there will be approximately 37,100 new job openings in the field by 2022.

“Patients are more likely to see a nurse practitioner than they were a decade ago,” said Wilkerson. “While they are part of the health care team, their independence is evolving and they are gaining more autonomy. Many insurance providers now allow nurse practitioners to be listed as the primary care provider.”

Another way nurse practitioners fill the gap in primary care is by working in locations lacking adequate access to health care. Nurse practitioners have a greater tendency to practice in traditionally underserved areas compared to other primary care providers. In fact, in some rural areas a nurse practitioner may be the only provider available.

Wilkerson explained that the mission of the College of Nursing is about much more than just producing more family nurse practitioners, it’s about bettering the care available to patients. “We are not simply preparing nurses for certification, but creating nurses with the critical thinking skills to deliver the best possible patient care,” she said.

The M.S.N.-FNP courses will be delivered online, with full and part-time options, allowing students to balance career, family and other responsibilities while advancing their education. The students will have an opportunity to provide care with qualified preceptors in or near their home locations.

Those interested in applying must have a baccalaureate degree in nursing from an institution of higher education accredited by the appropriate regional accrediting agency and either National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) orthe Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). A current, unencumbered Registered Nurse license to practice in the State of Texas or licensed in the state where practicums will occur is also required.

Prospective students can visit nursing.tamhsc.edu for more information and to connect with an advisor.

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Rae Lynn Mitchell <![CDATA[Texas A&M study transforms traditional perceptions of physical activity]]> https://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=20820 2014-07-24T14:46:06Z 2014-07-24T14:36:27Z Geocaching incorporates the adventure of a real-life treasure hunt with gaming features. The research study “Geocaching for Exercise and Activity Research (GEAR)” focuses on this and has shown that it can greatly increase physical activity. ]]>
The study included individuals 18- to 77-years old and showed nontraditional methods of physical activity were effective.

The study included individuals 18- to 77-years old and showed nontraditional methods of physical activity were effective.

The Center for Community Health Development (CCHD) at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health finds evidence that fun can lead to physical activity. A CCHD research study funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) evaluated the health benefits of exergames, or activities that engage users in physical activity with the added fun factor of game play.

The research study “Geocaching for Exercise and Activity Research (GEAR)” focused on a particular exergame called geocaching. Geocaching incorporates the adventure of a real-life treasure hunt with gaming features such as a reward system, online avatars, and skill-based categories. As part of GEAR, 1,000 people across the United States tracked their physical activity levels while geocaching during a 12-month period. Researches collected data from individuals ranging in age from 18- to 77-years old through online surveys and analyzed the aggregated responses to understand how physical activity and geocaching relate.

Whitney Garney, M.P.H.

Whitney Garney, M.P.H.

One of the study’s principal investigators, Whitney Garney, M.P.H., states that throughout the 12-month study, “the average GEAR participant walked 10 miles per month while geocaching alone, walking approximately 1-½ miles on each geocaching trip and averaging 72 geocaching trips a year.”

This means that participants averaged 134 minutes of moderate physical activity a week, which is just under the CDC’s weekly recommendation of 150 minutes.

Additionally, participants in the study reported improved health status and fewer days of poor mental health and physical health than a comparative sample.

Study findings are significant in that they support nontraditional methods of physical activity as an effective component of a healthy lifestyle for people of all ages.

“GEAR results have important implications for how and why people are physically active,” says Garney. “Geocaching is one option for people to have fun and be physically active at the same time without going to the gym and may be just what America needs to get moving.”

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Elizabeth Grimm <![CDATA[Computers, smartphones and TVs: how electronics might be affecting your teen’s sleep]]> https://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=20811 2014-07-23T14:42:30Z 2014-07-23T14:16:20Z Natural blue light is emitted during the day, but most electronics also expose us to this wavelength of light. Recent research shows that artificial blue light has a delaying effect on our sleep cycle]]>
Photo of young woman looking at a computer screen in a dark room.

Exposure to blue light after sunset can have a delaying effect on our sleep cycles.

It’s the beginning of the end of summer, which means it’s time to start getting into the rhythm of the school year. One of the simplest actions you can take to increase your child’s performance is to make sure they’re getting enough sleep—because a sleep deficit of one hour can translate into a substantial decrease in their cognitive performance.

The solution seems simple enough: have your teen go to bed earlier and reap the health benefits that come with a full night’s rest—but there’s a culprit keeping you and your teen awake at night: blue light.

Natural blue light is emitted during the day, but most electronics also expose us to this wavelength of light. Recent research shows that artificial blue light has a delaying effect on our sleep cycle. “In terms of light and our brains, there is a spectrum of light wavelengths that impacts the human circadian system. Blue light is in the most sensitive side of the spectrum,” says David Earnest, Ph.D., professor at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, who has conducted extensive research on circadian rhythms and how their disruption may affect human health.

We are exposed to blue-spectrum lighting throughout the day, which signals to our brain that it is time to be awake. As the day continues and the sun sets, the light shifts to the red side of the spectrum. Following this shift, and the subsequent arrival of night, melatonin levels in the blood begin to increase and this informs our bodies that it’s time to sleep.

Since teenagers have different sleep patterns than most adults, they are naturally predisposed to go to sleep and wake up later than the regular nine-to-five daily schedule allows. If your teenager continues their exposure to blue light after sunset with computers and phones, their “delayed” sleep cycle may become difficult to reconcile with their school schedule.

Short of ditching smartphones and computers, it’s difficult to eliminate our exposure to artificial blue light at night. Earnest offers a few options to reduce the effect of blue light on your teen’s sleep schedule:

Implement a ‘no electronics’ rule for bedrooms

This is the simplest method for cutting out late-night blue light exposure. By encouraging your teen to leave their phones and computers out of their bedrooms, they will find it easier to go to bed at an earlier time.

Working late at night on their computer can create sleep problems, which can then develop into poor school and task performance. By removing computers and other electronics from their rooms, your child’s bedroom will be more conducive to sleep. This way they will be more likely to get a full night’s rest and then can be at the top of their game in class.

Minimize blue light exposure

If completely banning all electronics from your teenager’s room seems like cruel and unusual punishment, don’t fret—there are ways to negate artificial blue light without incurring your teen’s wrath!

For those who are unwilling to disconnect after dark, Earnest suggests investing in a pair of amber-lensed glasses, which will block all blue light after the sun sets. These glasses will allow your teenager to use the computer or their phone without the melatonin-suppressing effects of blue light. While wearing sunglasses indoors may seem silly, this is the most comprehensive option for blocking all blue light exposure, since it will even block the blue spectrum light that normal residential light bulbs can emit.

Another option is to change the light spectrum on your computer screen. This may be as simple as adjusting your screen settings, but the process varies from computer to computer. If the process is too complex, there’s always f.lux, an application that shifts the light spectrum of your computer, tablet or even smartphone depending on the time of day. While this application won’t shield your teen from all blue light, it will reduce the amount they are exposed to.

Encourage a regular sleep schedule

It’s no secret that sleep is important; it’s when our bodies metabolize food, repair muscles and when our brains take a break to prepare for the next day. But did you know that maintaining a regular sleep cycle every night could help prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease and even breast cancer?

According to Earnest, people who receive an adequate amount of sleep but at different times every day, such as shift workers, are also at a higher risk of developing a chronic disease. By encouraging your child to go to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday, you can ensure that they get enough rest and help protect them from developing dangerous health effects later in life. Blue light aside, maintaining a regular daily schedule can help promote better performance in school and a healthier life for your child.

For more information on the importance of sleep, please visit National Institutes of Health.

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Rae Lynn Mitchell <![CDATA[Taylor awarded 2014 American STD Association Developmental Award]]> https://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=20803 2014-07-21T20:32:18Z 2014-07-21T19:57:42Z Brandie Taylor, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, was recently awarded the 2014 American Sexually Transmitted Disease Association (ASTDA) Developmental Award. The ASTDA Developmental Award is designed to encourage new investigators to pursue careers in STD research. ]]>
Dr. Brandie Taylor

Brandie Taylor, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Brandie Taylor, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, was recently awarded the 2014 American Sexually Transmitted Disease Association (ASTDA) Developmental Award. The ASTDA Developmental Award is designed to encourage new investigators to pursue careers in STD research.

This two-year award will provide support related to Taylor’s research proposal entitled, “Host Genetic Susceptibility to Chlamydia-Associated Reproductive Morbidity,” where she will utilize genomic sequencing to identify new and rare host genetic markers associated with infertility secondary to Chlamydia trachomatis (chlamydia) genital tract infection. Findings from this initial proposal will provide data for continued research in a larger study designed to build prediction models.

Chlamydia remains the most common bacterial STD in the United States despite aggressive efforts to reduce rates of infection. In some women chlamydia causes permanent damage to the reproductive organs leading to infertility.

“My goal is to contribute to a better understanding of chlamydia and identify genetic and biological markers that can be used to predict risk of reproductive complications following infection,” said Taylor.

“Our previous work has shown that host genetics may contribute to why some women develop infertility following chlamydia and some women do not. This award will provide research support and allow me to obtain the training and practical experiences necessary to better understand the host genetic contribution to infertility following chlamydial genital tract infection.”

Host genetics can be used to identify high risk groups of women who would benefit most from modifying current chlamydial control regimens. This may include increasing the frequency of testing for C. trachomatis so that prompt and proper treatment can be initiated. As an inflammatory response is induced shorty after chlamydial infection, it is very important that women receive prompt treatment to reduce the duration of infection to prevent long-term complications including infertility.

Taylor is the current Director of the Reproductive and Child Health Program at the Texas A&M School of Public Health. Her research interests include reproductive and perinatal epidemiology and the role of the host genetics and the immune system in reproductive and pregnancy complications.

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Cheri Shipman <![CDATA[Texas A&M pharmacy researchers developing tool to test effectiveness of drugs]]> https://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=20760 2014-07-21T12:52:25Z 2014-07-21T12:51:16Z A team of Texas A&M scientists in collaboration with Michigan-based 21st Century Therapeutic Inc., hope to develop a technology to measure the effectiveness of novel drugs used in prevention of transplant rejections or cancer treatments]]>
Narendra Kumar, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences, Jayshree Mishra, Ph.D., research assistant, serve as co-investigators on a sub-contract in an NIH-funded initiative to develop a device that measure drug effectiveness. Texas A&M University-Kingsville electrical engineering graduate students Lakshmi Korrapati and Saikrishna Krishna work in the lab on the project.

Narendra Kumar, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences, Jayshree Mishra, Ph.D., research assistant, serve as co-investigators on a sub-contract in an NIH-funded initiative to develop a device that measure drug effectiveness. Texas A&M University-Kingsville electrical engineering graduate students Lakshmi Korrapati and Saikrishna Krishna work in the lab on the project.

KINGSVILLE, Texas – Someday, doctors might specifically attack diseased cells and – at the same time – protect the normal, healthy cells fighting infections and inflammation caused by treatments.

Supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health-Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR/STTR), a team of Texas A&M scientists in collaboration with Michigan-based 21st Century Therapeutic Inc., are working toward turning that idea into a reality.

Narendra Kumar, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences, is the inventor of the idea and serves as the principal investigator on the sub-contract of this award at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy.

“Our college is involved in translational research,” said David Potter, chair of pharmaceutical sciences at the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy. “Our researchers are in the process of developing new agents to treat inflammatory diseases.”

The researchers are involved in the development of technology to measure the effectiveness of novel drugs used in prevention of transplant rejections or cancer treatments. Their findings could create more effective drugs for inflammation related complications that will reduce the overall health care cost to the patient and aid doctors by providing tools to treat diseases.

“Most of the diseases stem from sustained chronic inflammation culminating into diabetes, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s diseases and different cancers,” Kumar said. “We want to work on a way for the pharmaceutical industry to make potent drugs that can enhance the therapeutic treatment of multiple diseases that originate from chronic inflammation and compromise the immune system.”

By doing this, the immune system remains strong to fight only the diseased cells, sparing the healthy cells that could fight infections and increase the acceptance of the transplanted organ. The technology can also increase the potency of the drug and reduce the health care cost for the treatment of different diseases that originate from chronic inflammation including different types of cancer.

“Through this innovative technology we can adjust the activation and deactivation of a key enzyme that regulates chronic inflammation in the human body,” said Jayshree Mishra, Ph.D., research assistant professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy. Both Kumar and Mishra have filed a patent application in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the technology.

The discovery will be beneficial to patients by increasing the therapeutic effects of treatments and reducing the recovery time. Additionally, this could also be used in asthma and allergy patients.

“With the skyrocketing health care cost, drug companies and hospitals along with universities have shared responsibility to provide better tools and technologies that can lower the cost of treatment and increases the success rate particularly for inflammation related complications such as transplants and cancer,” Kumar said. “This timely project strives to achieve just that.”

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Jennifer Fuentes <![CDATA[Texas dental schools team up to create a standardized course for treatment of sleep-related breathing disorders]]> https://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=20784 2014-07-21T16:17:36Z 2014-07-18T22:33:30Z As the number of Americans with sleep-related breathing disorders continues to grow, so does the need for dentists to have access to continued training to best serve this patient population. ]]>

On June 11, after more than two years of hearings, proposals and discussions, a new rule regarding how Texas dentists may diagnose and treat sleep-related breathing disorders went into effect.

The Texas State Board of Dental Examiners recently approved the rule, making it a part of Texas Administrative Code. It allows dentists to independently diagnose, treat and monitor any dental condition related to benign snoring or obstructive sleep apnea. With this responsibility comes the mandate for dentists to complete 12 hours of education in sleep-disordered breathing the first year of treating patients for such conditions and three hours in subsequent years.

Hand holding dental retainersTo make this process as seamless as possible, alumni and faculty at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry have teamed up with dentists at the UT Health Science Center dental schools in San Antonio and Houston to create a standardized, statewide course on the discipline.

At the helm is Dr. Keith Thornton, who graduated from Texas A&M Baylor College of Dentistry in 1969 and owns SleepWell Solutions, a Dallas dental practice dedicated entirely to sleep-related breathing disorders.

“This course will include everything that is necessary for a dentist to start treating their patients in his or her office,” says Thornton. “It will be comprehensive and developed by Texas dentists who are experts in the field of sleep-disordered breathing plus representatives from each of the Texas dental schools.”

The program will cover the basics of sleep and sleep-disordered breathing through lecture and hands-on instruction. The goal is for dentists to become comfortable with the technical aspects of fitting patients for and fabricating oral appliances, which are designed to protrude the jaw, preventing the tongue and soft tissues of the throat from collapsing into the airway.

Dr. Amerian Sones, director of continuing education at Texas A&M Baylor College of Dentistry, says she anticipates the college will host the first standardized program by fall 2015. An annual two-day course covering snoring and sleep apnea has already been in place at the dental school for several years, but the need for training within this dental niche continues to grow.

“There is a very big interest in treating these problems,” Sones says. “Sleep-related breathing disorders affect such a big percentage of our population, and those who suffer from it deal with a lack of sleep and really can’t function. They can’t work, drive or be productive because they don’t get the rest that they need.

“We in dentistry are jumping on board because this is a problem that in most cases can be managed, prevented, or treated using dental technology, and so we must be a part of diagnosis and treatment planning.”

The program, which may be structured as a symposium, could include the opportunity for interprofessional collaboration with physicians and ear-nose-and-throat specialists.

In his role as president of the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners, Dr. Rudy Ramos has worked on the rule for the past two years.

“I meet with state board examiners across the country. No one really addresses sleep-disordered breathing,” Ramos says. “Texas is the first to embark on a sleep dentistry rule. It will set the bar across the country.

“A lot of dental schools now are going to have to make this a part of their curriculum. This is going to be a big change for dentistry as a whole.”

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Rae Lynn Mitchell <![CDATA[Tekwe develops new model examining impact of radiation dose on lipid measures among Japanese atomic bomb survivors]]> https://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=20778 2014-07-18T21:39:46Z 2014-07-18T21:09:43Z Carmen D. Tekwe, Ph.D., assistant professor with the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, recently published a study detailing the development of a new statistical model in Statistics in Medicine]]>
Tekwe Image

Carmen D. Tekwe, Ph.D.

A person’s overall physical health and well being is often dictated more so by the experiences of their past, than by their present. The health behavior choices we make and exposures we suffer can have a significant impact on our health later in life.

Carmen D. Tekwe, Ph.D., assistant professor with the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, recently published a study detailing the development of a new statistical model in Statistics in Medicine. Using this model, she examined the effects of radiation exposure on cardio-metabolic risk factors associated with dyslipidemia, an abnormal amount of lipids (e.g. cholesterol and/or fat) in the blood. The study was based on data from the Adult Health Study cohort of survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.

With this study, entitled “Multiple indicators, multiple causes measurement error (MIMIC ME) models,” Tekwe and her co-authors participated in an international collaboration of Japanese and American scientists and statisticians to extend a standard latent variable model known as the MIMIC model to study the effects of true radiation dose at exposure on triglyceride, HDL and LDL cholesterol levels in the blood. Their MIMIC ME model allowed adjustment for measurement error associated with the manner in which the amount of radiation exposure was determined.

“The calculations used to estimate the exact amount of radiation doses received by the survivors was based primarily on self-reported measures of distance and shielding at the time of exposure,” said Tekwe. “Therefore, they are prone to classical measurement error.”

In addition to typical measurement errors, this study adjusted for a second source of error known as Berkson error. This error occurred primarily due to all individuals sharing a common characteristic (i.e., close proximity) being assigned the radiation dose calculated for a hypothetical representative of their group, rather than individually estimated doses.

As a result, this study was the first to assess the impact of radiation dose on dyslipidemia among the survivors adjusting for both types of errors. Results indicated that radiation exposure increases cardio-metabolic risk.

According to Tekwe, failure to properly account for measurement error(s) in assessing the impact of an exposure agent on various health outcomes such as dyslipidemia or cancer can lead to either under- or over-estimation of true effects, depending on the presence or absence of measurement error. MIMIC ME model analysis provides corrections for both types of errors and thus, an unbiased estimate of the effect of exposure.
“In order to make recommendations to appropriate regulatory or public health agencies on the effects of exposure to a particular environmental agent on the public, it is essential that the exposure to the environmental agent be approximated as reliably as possible and that analysis methods such as the MIMIC ME model be employed when errors remain. ”

This method has the potential to be applied to a wide array of fields such as cancer prevention, tobacco exposure, and behavioral health patterns research. With the help of this model researchers will not only improve study protocol and reliability, but also enhance the ability to accurately target preventative patient care.

Additional authors are Dr. Randy Carter of the University of Buffalo in New York, Dr. Harry Cullings of the Radiation Effects Research Foundation in Hiroshima, Japan, and Dr. Raymond Carroll of Texas A&M University.

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Rae Lynn Mitchell <![CDATA[Sharma reviews methods to breakdown contaminates in water]]> https://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=20776 2014-07-18T21:38:51Z 2014-07-18T20:57:41Z Virender K. Sharma, Ph.D., professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, recently published a review of different methods of transforming sucralose in water]]>
Sharma in Lab

Virender K. Sharma, Ph.D.

Sugar free products have revolutionized the food industry and provided sugary tasting options for those suffering from diabetes and other illnesses. However, many sugar free products are often not digestible by our bodies, resulting in their ending up in wastewater and ultimately in the aquatic environment.

Sucralose, which is most often found under the Splenda brand name, is one such artificial sweetener that remains in the water cycle for more than a year. The use of sucralose is estimated to continue to increase in the coming years, and as a result, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has flagged it as an emerging environmental contaminant.

Virender K. Sharma, Ph.D., professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, reviewed different methods of transforming sucralose in water. His review was recently published in Environmental Science and Pollution Research.

In “Oxidation of Artifical Sweetener Sucralose by Advanced Oxidation Processes: A Review,” Sharma indicates that of all the water purifying procedures reviewed, the only one that showed success was an advanced oxidation system that generates hydroxyl radicals using chemical and electrochemical approaches.

Using the chemical approach, hydroxyl radicals are produced in the water contaminated with sucralose with the aid of ozone, hydrogen peroxide, oxygen, and ultraviolet light or catalysts (for example titanium dioxide). In an electrochemical approach, electrodes immersed in contaminated water at a certain voltage are able to generate hydroxyl radicals. In both cases, sucralose rapidly degraded when hydroxyl radicals were introduced.

“These processes seem to be economical; however, a feasibility study on a large scale must be performed to realize the full potential of this approach.”

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Holly Lambert <![CDATA[Texas A&M forges path for rapid, flexible vaccine delivery]]> https://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=20746 2014-07-22T13:20:57Z 2014-07-17T22:19:01Z Vaccines are among the greatest achievements in the history of public health. However, past challenges with vaccine development processes and frequent shortages during times of need have highlighted the importance of more extensive and reliable manufacturing operations]]>
Photo of vaccines being prepared in the lab.

In the wake of recent disease outbreaks, the need for quick access to high-quality, life-saving vaccines shines light on the importance of reliable, U.S.-based vaccine manufacturing efforts.

Vaccines are among the greatest achievements in the history of public health. However, past challenges with vaccine development processes and frequent shortages during times of need have highlighted the importance of more extensive and reliable manufacturing operations. The 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic brought to light some key areas in need of improvement on a national scale: dated, slow vaccine technology and too much reliance on foreign factories. 

As H1N1 reached a peak in June 2009 withall 50 states in the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands reporting cases of infection, the federal government began putting into place a plan to more effectively address the need for highly flexible and adaptive domestic manufacturing technologies The results? Launch of three government-funded biodefense centers aimed at building the national medical countermeasure stockpile in the U.S. to stand ready with a near-immediate response to the next national public health threat, whether naturally occurring or a deliberate attack.

Founded on an initial $285.6 million public-private investment from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including $176.6 million from the U.S. government and the remainder cost-shared by commercial and academic partners as well as the State of Texas, the Texas A&M Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing (CIADM) is one such center – and the only one housed within an academic institution – designed to develop vaccines, biologics and therapeutics much more rapidly, efficiently and cost-effectively than ever before. As a public-private partnership, the center leverages the expertise of a renowned research university and health science center, innovation of emerging biotechnology firms, and the development and manufacturing capabilities of global pharmaceutical companies.

“The three national centers are the first major U.S. domestic infrastructure to address biodefense threats and pandemic influenza,” said Gerald Parker, D.V.M., Ph.D., M.S., vice president for public health preparedness and response at the Texas A&M Health Science Center and principal investigator of the Texas A&M CIADM. “Their development represents a major step forward in ensuring our ability to protect the health of Americans when our nation faces imminent threats.”

Photo of Texas A&M CIADM's revolutionary facility.

Mobile clean rooms allow for development and simultaneous production of millions of doses of medical countermeasures against some of the world’s deadliest threats.

The center’s technology is founded on a 150,000-square-foot revolutionary facility that has pioneered highly flexible, adaptable mobile manufacturing platforms, at a capital cost 80 percent less than the current approach.

Mobile clean rooms – standalone, modular, biopharmaceutical “pods” – within the facility allow for development and simultaneous production of millions of doses of medical countermeasures against some of the world’s deadliest threats. These mobile clean rooms can be configured to support manufacture of vaccines against pandemic influenza or antidotes to biological, chemical or radioactive agents. Each room can be unplugged, pushed across the warehouse, and connected to a new production line — ready in days to make a different life-saving product as compared to the months that previous processes required.

Once the center is fully operational, the facilities will have the capability to supply fifty million vaccine doses within four months of receipt of a pandemic influenza strain, with first doses available in 12 weeks. This is twice as fast as the vaccine response to the H1N1 outbreak in 2009.

Unlike traditional influenza vaccines, grown in fertilized chicken eggs, the Texas A&M CIADM will produce the vaccines in animal cells, a cleaner and quicker process that also eliminates many of the allergic risks associated with egg-based vaccines. In fact, the center is expected to produce as many influenza vaccine doses in a single month as a traditional lab does in one year, at a fraction of the cost.

In addition to revolutionary influenza vaccine manufacturing, the Texas A&M CIADM is also refining advanced manufacturing techniques for all vaccine and medical countermeasures against biological and chemical threats, such as second generation anthrax vaccines, antibody therapies and treatments for radiation poisoning, which will serve as a national response platform for new naturally emerging infectious diseases like SARS and West Nile Virus. The goal is to speed response to public health threats before impending situations reach pandemic proportions.

“We need to be prepared for all hazards, not just the last one that hit us,” Parker said. “Other threats could emerge, such as the coronavirus behind Middle East respiratory syndrome, which surfaced in Saudi Arabia in 2012, or the Ebola virus outbreak currently devastating West Africa. If one of these viruses begins to spread and a vaccine can be developed, the center will need to produce it quickly and prepare it for the market at speeds never before seen.”

Ultimately, efforts at Texas A&M will have profound implications for the entire pharmaceutical industry, and most importantly for patients in need of life-saving new therapies.

“The threat of bioterrorism is very real and something we as a nation need to be prepared to face so that we can mitigate potential damage and save lives,” Parker said. “As a leading academic institution with a history of dedicated national service, Texas A&M is highly motivated to support vaccine and medical countermeasure development, manufacturing, licensure and delivery to populations in need.It may sound odd to think that the nation’s future can be found in a warehouse in College Station, Texas, but that is the case, and we stand ready.”

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