Dr. Compans is a Professor in (and former Chair of) the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the Emory University School of Medicine and is the Scientific Director of the Influenza Pathogenesis & Immunology Research Center (IPIRC). Before coming to Emory in 1992, he was a professor in the microbiology department of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Compans received his Ph.D. from the Rockefeller University.
Dr. Richard Compans is studying viral surface glycoproteins and their ability to elicit immune responses. These are the most important viral antigens in eliciting protective immunity. By assembling virus-like particles bearing these proteins, it is possible to create safe vaccines capable of inducing responses similar to those elicited by virus infection. Dr. Compans is exploring the possibility of using this approach to combat HIV, influenza, and viral hemorrhagic fevers, including Ebola, Lassa, and Marburg viruses.
A major focus of our group is to develop virus-like particle (VLP) based vaccine antigens which are effective in eliciting protective immune responses against viral infection. One project is focused on vaccines for HIV-1 prevention, with specific emphasis on inducing broadly reactive neutralizing antibody responses to primary HIV-1 isolates to prevent infection at mucosal surfaces. Other projects are focused on developing safe and effective vaccines to prevent pandemic influenza or viral hemorrhagic fever, employing VLPs containing the envelope glycoproteins of influenza, Marburg or Ebola virus on their surfaces.
Despite the success of vaccination against influenza, the virus has many subtypes, mutates rapidly and continues to elude complete or long-term protection, and therefore requires annual vaccination with an updated vaccine each year. In collaborative projects with Georgia Tech, new vaccine formulations and delivery methods such as vaccine-coated microneedle patches are being developed to provide an improved protective response, which would be of particular benefit to those at high risk of related complications. Vaccine delivery to the skin by microneedles is painless and offers other advantages such as eliminating potential risks due to use of hypodermic needles. Our recent studies demonstrate that microneedle vaccine patches are more effective at inducing protection against influenza virus than subcutaneous or intramuscular inoculation, as shown by more effective protection against lethal challenge and increased duration and breadth of immunity. We also observed that skin immunization with inactivated influenza virus using microneedles results in a local increase of cytokines important for recruitment of neutrophils, monocytes and dendritic cells at the site of immunization. All these cells can play a role in activating a strong immune response against the virus.