Biodefense and homeland security were the focal points of this year’s Vaccine Renaissance Conference held in Providence. The annual event, hosted by the University of Rhode Island’s Institute for Immunology and Informatics, draws national leaders in the vaccine industry who present the latest discoveries in vaccine research, vaccine delivery, clinical trials and basic immunology.

The Institute, more commonly known as iCubed, applies cutting-edge bioinformatics tools to accelerate the development of treatments and cures for diseases such as Lyme Disease, Hepatitis C and Dengue Fever.

Each year the conference provides an opportunity to learn about vaccines from elite researchers from around the world. Among the list of this year’s speakers was Joel McCleary, former Deputy Assistant to the President under Jimmy Carter and founder of PharmAthene, Inc. Mr. McCleary spoke about the accomplishments of the United States’ biological weapons programs. Dr. Stephen Thomas of Walter Reed Army Institute of Research discussed his work as director of the Institute’s Viral Diseases Branch. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse was also in attendance to give an overview of the state’s legislative initiatives involving biodefense. Whitehouse stressed the need to be proactive in preparing for a catastrophic event. (Click here to read the Senator’s full speech).

This year’s conference also marked the fourth year anniversary of iCubed. The Institute was established in 2008 with the help of a $13 million NIH-funded Translational Immunology Research and Accelerated Vaccine Development (TRIAD) grant to the Institute’s first faculty member, Annie De Groot, M.D. De Groot then recruited Denice Spero Ph.D., a scientist experienced in bringing drugs from discovery into development. Together the two have developed iCubed into a center for innovative vaccine research.