Profile: Daniel Hoft, MD, PhD

Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases, Allergy and Immunology, and PI of the Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit, Saint Louis University School of Medicine

How long have you worked with the VTEU?

I've been working with the Saint Louis University VTEU since 1993. Bob Belshe, the VTEU PI at that time recruited me from the University of Iowa where I had just finished my internal medicine residency, ID fellowship, and PhD in Microbiology/Immunology.  

Briefly describe the IDCRC-supported trials you’ve worked on

I started my VTEU work studying human immune responses to Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG), which has become a 28-year series of trials to understand what immune responses BCG induces and what does it fail to induce optimally. This resulted in work that compared different routes of BCG vaccination, examined what subsets of T-cells were induced to develop a protective immune response after BCG, and now ongoing studies of human lung mucosal and systemic responses, as well as gamma/delta T-cells that have involved R01-funded studies, Gates funded work, industry-funded work and many VTEU studies. We have identified oral BCG as a route that in humans induces enhanced immune trafficking of memory protective immunity to the lung, and purified a novel tuberculosis (TB) antigen that induces protective gamma/delta T-cells being tested in nonhuman primates currently.  
Approximately 15 years ago I began focused studies of influenza human immunity, again involving VTEU studies, industry studies and RO1 funding. We have shown that live attenuated influenza vaccination induces T-cell responses that are cross-protective against influenza A. Currently, we are studying novel influenza vaccines in VTEU trials and developing a universal T-cell targeting vaccine strategy that could protect more than 95% of the world's population against all strains of influenza A including all HA subtypes and all past and potential future pandemic strains.  
For the past couple of years we have spent considerable time working on COVID-19 vaccine development, both in the preclinical and clinical realms. 
My work with the VTEU and other NIH awards has mostly been focused on two themes:

  1. the development of T-cell targeting vaccines against mucosal invasive intracellular pathogens, and
  2. the development of mucosal vaccination strategies that could optimally protect against initial mucosal invasion as well as disease progression within mucosal tissues.  

Learn more about IDCRC Studies.

Of these trials, what has been the most impactful or highlight of the work?

I'd say all three areas of TB, influenza, and COVID-19 vaccine development. 

What is a strength or example of the importance of the IDCRC during the pandemic and beyond?

The IDCRC and associated VTEUs are critical for pandemic preparedness, urgent responses to novel worldwide threats and experimental biology studies in humans to further identify important immune targets for improved vaccines. 

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