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The University of Mississippi

Mo Maniruzzaman

Pharmacy Federal Grant to Propel Vaccine Technology Research

Researcher seeks to streamline vaccine manufacturing

OXFORD, Miss. – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has awarded a roughly $500K grant to University of Mississippi pharmacy professor Mo Maniruzzaman, with a recommendation for another $500K in 2025, to develop a technology that promises to streamline vaccine production.

The Research Project Grant will support work by Maniruzzaman, two doctoral students and two postdoctoral research fellows on a method for 3D manufacturing of complex recombinant protein vaccines.

This method uses bacteria or yeast cells to express proteins such as hemagglutinin, a vaccine protein that protects against the flu. Researchers have demonstrated that vaccines produced by these single-cell micro-organisms have great potential to protect against other emerging infectious diseases.

Currently, the biomanufacturing industry is overloaded with processes that are lengthy, expensive and lack flexibility. Once optimized, Maniruzzaman’s method could be used in large-scale fermentations for production of recombinant protein vaccines on demand and at a much faster rate.

The technology is called sprayed multi adsorbed-droplet reposing technology, or SMART, said Maniruzzaman, principal investigator for the grant and chair of the UM Department of Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery.

“The need for efficient technology for manufacturing vaccines on demand and at the point of service has never been so pressing as in the midst of the recent pandemic outbreak,” he said. “Our lab will broaden the scope of novel 3D printing technology, SMART to single-step manufacturing of biologics, including monoclonal antibodies and protein vaccines.”

Maniruzzaman hopes to use SMART to produce polymeric micro-carriers – tiny polymer beads that contain bioengineered one-cell organisms, such as yeast or bacteria, into the body. This method offers precise control over the shape and size of the beads to ensure they deliver the vaccine or protein therapeutics where they are needed.

These bioengineered microorganisms will also be capable of producing a range of small-molecule drugs as well as biological medical products, or biologics, in addition to recombinant protein vaccines. A more streamlined process such as this could, for example, drastically speed up the production of vaccines during flu season or enable the science community to respond more quickly to another pandemic.

Additionally, the technology could help make a significant impact in remote areas where access to vaccines in a timely manner is problematic.

The SMART technology has the potential to improve flexibility, cost and efficiency in manufacturing processes for protein-based biologics that can be used against emerging infectious diseases. The technology would also mean lower cost to both the consumer and the manufacturer.

This is the second time Maniruzzaman has secured this particular grant, which funds research through August 2025. The initial grant for roughly the same amount was awarded to Maniruzzaman at his previous institution, the University of Texas at Austin.

In recent studies, he and his research team have successfully applied the SMART platform to streamline the production, characterization and transfection abilities of plasmid DNA in cancer cells. The exciting results indicate the consistency of the team’s technology and potential usage in commercial applications.

Maniruzzaman said he is encouraged by this success because gene therapy is a promising approach to delivering plasmid DNA to produce therapeutic action using carrier materials like lipid nanoparticles.

“By the end of this project, we envision to develop a state-of-the-art streamlined technology to produce recombinant protein vaccines in a single step and at the point of service,” he said. “There’s a growing need for distributed manufacturing of biologics-based therapeutics across the world and results obtained from our research will get us one step closer to meet that need.

“This work will also form a strong background for our ongoing efforts of producing mRNA vaccines and therapeutics on demand.”

This project is supported by the Food and Drug Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as part of a financial assistance award 7R01FD007456-04 totaling $498,119 with 100 percent funded by the FDA/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by the FDA/HHS, or the U.S. government.

By Natalie Ehrhardt