Fish farming is an important source of nutrition for the global protein market, but the farms are plagued by infectious diseases. At URI and EpiVax, we are developing a model for predicting fish T cell epitopes which will allow us to screen fish pathogens for candidate vaccine antigens. This model is being applied to pathogens afflicting fish for veterinary vaccines.  Fish MHC-restricted T-cell epitopes could also be useful as reagents to further the study of mechanisms of immune response to fish pathogens.

As aquaculture is the fastest growing form of food production in the world and provides a significant source of protein in human diets worldwide, the demand for safe and healthy seafood is expected to grow, which only underscores the significance of aquaculture vaccine development. At URI, we are directly responding to this need by bringing together a multi-disciplinary group of URI investigators with expertise in aquaculture, microbiology, genomics, informatics, immunology, vaccinology and biotechnology to address one of the major bacterial diseases affecting fish.

Over the past 10 years, the immunoinoformatics team at EpiVax, and now in collaboration with iCubed at URI, has developed many in-silico models of HLA presentation and has used those models to successfully map literally hundreds of highly immunogenic T-cell epitopes present in the genomes of many infectious diseases. We are now developing models of fish MHC restriction by aligning fish sequences to selected human HLA sequences and constructing new predictive models based on sequence similarities.

We are collaborating with the URI Fish Vaccine Team leaders (Drs. Lenny Moise, Marta Gomez-Chiarri, Denice Spero, Annie De Groot and David Nelson) to develop a novel fish vaccine against the bacterial fish pathogen Vibrio anguilarum.

Interested in learning more? Contact Denice Spero at denice.spero@gmail.com.