Using Algorithms to Develop Safer Vaccines


A collaboration between the Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology and Professor Steve Skiena, PhD from the Department of Computer Science, has resulted in the discovery of a method that uses gene manipulation and computer algorithms to "recode" the genes of viruses. This discovery was recently commercialized through a cutting-edge research agreement with Codagenix, Inc. and will be used to fight viral infections in people and animals.

The first intended use of the technology will be in a Seasonal Influenza vaccine slated for Phase I human clinical trials in 2017. 

The technology stems from the research conducted in the laboratory of Eckard Wimmer, PhD. Prior to this licensing agreement, Wimmer worked as colleagues with Codagenix President and Chief Science Officer, Steffen Mueller, PhD, as well as Chief Operating Officer, J. Robert Coleman, PhD. Wimmer, Mueller, and Coleman's initial research led to working with Skiena, and Bruce Futcher, PhD, who is also a member of the Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology.

Results have shown that the process of recoding the genes makes viruses weak and therefore ideal components of ultra-low dose attenuated vaccines. The technology has been shown to be effective against Zika, Dengue, and RSV and is documented in almost a decade of scientific papers SciencePNASNational Biotechnology and in MBIo.

This project is a fine example of the collaboration between the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, other departments on campus to develop and market effective solutions that positively impact people on a daily basis.

Steve Skiena is a Distinguished Teaching Professor of Computer Science at Stony Brook whose research interests include design of graph, string, and geometric algorithms, and their applications, especially biology. The author of five books, including The Algorithm Design Manual, Skiena earned his PhD from the University of Illinois. Information on his Data Science Laboratory and projects in progress can be found here

For more information on the research agreement with Codagenix, read the University's news article and Newsday's coverage


From left: Rob Coleman, Eckard Wimmer, Steffen Mueller, and Steven Skiena