UConn Researcher Develops Successful Zika Virus Vaccine in Preclinical Studies

Paulo Verardi recently published promising results on a Zika virus vaccine.

Paulo Verardi (right) with Brittany Jasperse (left).
Paulo Verardi (right) with Brittany Jasperse (left).

Conn researcher Paulo Verardi, associate professor of pathobiology and veterinary science in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, has demonstrated the success of a vaccine against Zika virus and recently published his findings in Scientific Reports, a Nature Research publication.

He has also filed provisional patents with UConn’s Technology Commercialization Services for the novel vaccine platform technology used to generate the vaccine, as well as genetic modifications made to the vaccine that significantly enhance expression of the vaccine antigen.

Verardi, a Brazilian native, was in Brazil visiting family in the summer of 2015 when the Zika outbreak first began to make waves and soon reached epidemic status.

Back in the United States, Verardi kept tabs on the Zika epidemic and its emerging connection to microcephaly, a serious birth defect that causes babies to be born with small heads and underdeveloped brains.

Continue reading

Salty & Sweet: UConn Creamery Expands Production with New Line of Artisanal Cheeses

The UConn Creamery ramped up their cheese production with new flavors and old favorites

Packaged 1881 Reserve cheese
Faculty from the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources and staff at the UConn Creamery used changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to launch large-scale artisanal cheese production. (Contributed photo)

There’s more than just ice cream at the UConn Dairy Bar. In addition to delicious dessert favorites, the UConn Creamery has crafted new cheeses available for purchase through the UConn Dairy Bar. But to make it happen on a large scale during the COVID-19 pandemic required ingenuity and science.

The Creamery’s capacity to develop new products and reinvigorate its cheesemaking enterprise is an emerging silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic. When the Dairy Bar closed in March 2020 along with many University facilities and services, the Creamery staff, who are constantly busy producing hundreds of gallons of UConn’s many popular ice cream flavors year-round, found themselves not facing the pressure of keeping up with customer demand.

While the Dairy Bar reopened in late June 2020 for curbside pickup service with reduced hours, during the interim closure and facing a sharp decline in sales for one of Connecticut’s popular summer stops, the Creamery staff discussed options as freezers were stocked full of ice cream.

Continue reading

UConn Class Gives Scientific Cred to Eco Wikipedia Pages

Student contributions help Wikipedia become a more robust source of scientific information

Looking at a Wikipedia page
Jess Brandt’s students are working to make the omnipresent online encyclopedia a good first-look source of scientific information (Adobe Stock).

Wikipedia has not traditionally been celebrated in the university classroom, but some professors are working to change that. Assistant professor of natural resources and the environment, Jess Brandt, teaches a course in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources where students bring their new knowledge to the world’s largest open-access project.

“We don’t want Wikipedia to be the only source that people use for scientific information, but it can be a robust source of first information on many topics,” says Brandt, who is in CAHNR’s Department of Natural Resources and the Environment and Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering.

Brandt is part of WikiProject Limnology & Oceanography, a group of early career scientists dedicated to increasing the amount and quality of information on Wikipedia related to water science. Having contributed to the site herself, she thought it could serve as an engaging educational tool. Last year, the team published a paper on using Wikipedia as a tool for resolving information inequality. They identified as classroom Wikipedia projects as one way for people to contribute to this broader goal.

Brandt tasked students in her ecotoxicology course to add to the crowdsourced encyclopedia. As a course project, students created new or edited existing Wikipedia pages on relevant ecotoxicology topics that highlight the connection between environmental contaminants, exposure, and adverse effects to humans and wildlife. During this process, students researched current topics in ecotoxicology, core concepts and subdisciplines, major environmental contamination case studies, and influential scientists.

Continue reading

Using Emerging Science to Tackle Emerging Disease

A new course in bioinformatics teaches students with real-world data for training in an emerging scientific discipline.

bacteria illustration

As we’ve all gotten very familiar with living our lives virtually, a new course lets students learn more about the epidemiology of infectious diseases like COVID-19 without ever stepping foot in a lab.

Dong-Hun Lee, assistant professor of pathobiology and veterinary science in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, has created a course on bioinformatics in molecular epidemiology of infectious diseases that gives students practical skills in the use of bioinformatics technologies for infectious disease epidemiology. The course provides hands-on training in scientific computing and data analysis, so the students understand the enormous potential of bioinformatics and genomics in molecular epidemiology of infectious diseases.

Continue reading

CAHNR in the news

Indrajeet Chaubey, dean of the College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources, speaks at an event to announce a $10 million USDA grant to support integrated and sustainable antibiotic-restricted broiler poultry production research on Aug. 3, 2020.
Indrajeet Chaubey, CAHNR dean and director, speaks at a press event. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

A research team in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment have developed a novel way of gathering data about streams fed by groundwater that provide important insights about the possible effects of climate change reports UConn Today. Danielle Hare, a Ph.D. candidate, and Associate Professor Ashley Helton expanded on a novel method to easily access vital details about groundwater, and in doing so, they have discovered that many streams are more vulnerable to stressors like climate change than previously thought. The team has published their findings in the latest issue of Nature Communications. Hare also discussed the team’s work in The Conversation.

UConn Today announced the Department of Nutritional Sciences is offering a new Master of Science in Personalized Medicine degree program. Specialists with training in personalized nutrition make individual diet and health behavior recommendations that go beyond standard, global guidelines. The program, which is offered online starting in fall 2021, will prepare students for promising careers in health care, academia and industry. This story also appeared on the CAHNR Newsroom.

The Daily Campus spoke with Professor Sherry Pagoto of the Department of Allied Health Sciences about COVID-19 vaccines and discussed what people outside of the medical field can do to refute misconceptions and misinformation about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines. Continue reading