Mark Cayabyab, PhD

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Mark Cayabyab’s research focuses on vaccine development, as well as the role of innate immunity in the induction of protective memory immune responses. The overall goal of this research is to develop effective vaccines against infectious diseases.

Forsyth has long been a leader in infectious disease research. Initially focused on two of the most common global infectious diseases—dental decay and gum disease—in recent years, Forsyth has created a Center for Global Infectious Disease Research to broaden its impact on some of the world’s most devastating infectious diseases. Cayabyab has brought a new effort to Forsyth with his work to develop new ways to develop effective immunization at mucosal surfaces against HIV using oral bacteria as vectors.

“Although there has been great progress in HIV research, globally 34 million people including more than 2 million children are living with HIV” said Cayabyab. “To date despite tremendous effort, no effective vaccine has yet been developed, most likely because they do not induce HIV-specific immunity that prevents the virus from penetrating mucosal surfaces. Here at Forsyth, our expertise gives us a great advantage and opportunity.”

Cayabyab is working on the completely novel approach of using oral bacteria as vaccine vectors to deliver antigens of HIV in order to elicit protective immunity. Commensal non-disease causing oral bacteria are attractive vaccine vector candidates, because they are safe, they are able to colonize the oral mucosa, and they elicit potent mucosal immune responses. Initial studies in animal models demonstrate the feasibility of this approach, and although much work remains, it holds great promise to develop effective vaccines against HIV/AIDS and possibly other global infectious diseases. The promise of effective vaccines has the potential to save countless lives worldwide from HIV/AIDS, as well as malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases that profoundly impact public health.