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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

NIH $1.7M Grant Supports Research Guiding Norovirus Vaccine Decision-making

Researchers at the Emory Rollins School of Public Health have received a five-year, $1.7 million R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of General Medical Sciences to help guide norovirus vaccine decision-making. The grant will support the researchers’ multiscale mathematical modeling studies, which aim to understand the dynamics of norovirus at the human host, viral and epidemiological levels.

Led by Dr. Ben Lopman, the researchers will conduct a series of studies using mathematical models to address questions such as the number of norovirus strains for which a vaccine should provide protection, and for how long might protection last. Collaborators include Dr. Juan Leon at the Rollins School of Public Health; Dr. Katia Koelle at Emory College of Arts and Sciences; and Dr. Andreas Handel at the University of Georgia College of Public Health.

“Norovirus, like the better-studied influenza virus, is diverse and rapidly evolving, so it’s been hard to develop effective vaccines,” says Dr. Lopman. “But, we don’t yet have the richness of data or depth of understanding about norovirus biology or epidemiology. Our team brings together experts in norovirus with collaborators who have developed innovative mathematical models to study flu. With this investment, we’ll apply those methods to advance our understanding of norovirus.”

Norovirus is the most common U.S. culprit for hospitalizing children with vomiting and diarrhea. In this country alone, noroviruses cause more than 20 million episodes of diarrheal disease annually. On a global scale, norovirus kills 200,000 people every year.

“A norovirus vaccine would be a tremendous asset for public health,” says Dr. Lopman, who notes that vaccines are currently in late-stage human trials. “In the end, we want a norovirus vaccine that will be most valuable for public health. This research will aim to steer vaccine development and, ultimately, vaccine use in that direction.”