Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has received a $1.3 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop and validate a novel and safe approach for measuring immune responses to polioviruses. This research is being led by Prof. Tomer Hertz of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Genetics and the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev (NIBN).


Source: Graham Beards

Transmission electron micrograph of Polioviruses

Prof. Hertz has been developing antigen arrays capable of predicting immune responses of patients vaccinated against influenza viruses or viruses from the flavivirus family (a family that includes, among others, the Zika virus, the virus that causes Dengue Fever, the virus that causes yellow fever, and more) and polioviruses since 2018.

A vaccine against poliomyelitis (the paralysis that can result from poliovirus infection) was developed in the 1950s, and thanks to the efforts of many organizations around the world, two out of three types of the virus have already been globally eradicated. These efforts are broadly supported by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a public-private partnership led by the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, UNICEF, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Gavi, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Polio antigen microarray

The funding will help Prof. Hertz and his team apply and optimize PAM – a polio antigen microarray - that was originally developed using research grants from the WHO-coordinated Polio Research Committee. PAM requires only minimal amounts of serum, or dried blood spots. Its validation will facilitate rapid analysis of serological surveys in countries where polio has yet to be eradicated.

Commercialization efforts are still underway for the platforms to detect immunity to the influenza virus and to detect antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) in vaccines against Flaviviruses. These two patent families are owned by the university’s tech transfer company – BGN Technologies.

“This is a very exciting opportunity to test our PAM assay on a large set of samples from a serosurvey conducted in the Democratic Republic of Congo and we are very excited to get this project underway, and hope that this will lead to the establishment of a novel and safe to use assay for measuring protection from polio infection,” says Prof. Hertz.

“Prof. Hertz is an excellent example of an outstanding researcher who developed a groundbreaking platform technology which will have a global impact,” says BGN Technologies CEO Josh Peleg.