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Sex and Age Differences in Immunity to Influenza SCORE

The Sex and Age Differences in Immunity to Influenza (SADII) SCORE is positioned to transform our understanding of the role of biological sex, gender, and aging on immune responses to influenza vaccination, which has global public health implications, affecting millions of people worldwide. The overarching hypothesis: Female-biased vaccine-induced immunity to influenza viruses is age-dependent and reflects both hormonal and genetic differences between the sexes that impact immune responses (i.e., both effector and memory) to influenza vaccine antigens. The SADII SCORE brings together investigators focused on (1) seasonal influenza vaccination in an existing age- and sex-stratified human population, (2) animal models that can test hypotheses and mechanisms of action that are inferred from studies in human populations, and (3) the contributions of age, frailty, sex, and gender to vaccine outcomes using quantitative and qualitative statistical models.  

Research Projects:

  • Research Project 1: Sex differences in longitudinal humoral immunity against influenza in the frail elderly 
    This research project is led by Dr. Sean Leng, in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins University Older Americans Independence Center. The goal of this project is to provide a detailed analysis of sex and gender differences in humoral immunity and adverse reactions to seasonal influenza vaccines in combination with age and frailty in an existing longitudinal cohort of older individuals. 

  • Research Project 2: Sex differences in immune responses to vaccine and circulating strains of influenza in health care workers
    This research project is led by Dr. Andrew Pekosz, in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins Center of Excellence in Influenza Research and Surveillance (JH-CEIRS). The study will characterize the number and transcriptional activity of B cells, as well as humoral immune responses and adverse reactions, following receipt of seasonal influenza vaccines. The study will be focused on men and women between the ages of 18 and 45, to provide an age- and sex-stratified cohort to assess sex differences in vaccine responses among adults. 

  • Research Project 3: Genetic and hormonal mechanisms of sex differences in immune responses and influenza vaccine efficacy in young and aged mice
    This research project is led by Dr. Sabra Klein. The goal of the project is to uncover the genetic, hormonal, and age-associated changes in B cells that mediate sex and age differences in vaccine-induced immunity to influenza. This will be accomplished by a systematic evaluation of the effects sex hormones and genes encoded by sex chromosomes have on the antibody response to influenza vaccination. 

Career Enhancement Core:

Director: Wendy Bennett, M.D.

The SADII Career Enhancement Core (CEC) is led by Dr. Wendy Bennett, in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins Center for Women’s Health, Sex, and Gender Differences. Aims include:  

  • Providing collaboration, networking, dissemination, and mentoring opportunities 

  • Providing pilot grant funding for early-stage investigators (i.e., investigators at the level of assistant professor or below), with emphasis on diversity of candidates, interested in incorporating sex differences into their clinical, translational, or basic science research in the broad area of immunology (e.g., asthma and allergy, autoimmunity, cancer, infectious diseases, inflammation, microbiome, and vaccines)  

  • Integrating educational opportunities focused on teaching skills and methods for incorporating sex as a biological variable and gender considerations when planning, analyzing, and reporting data, as well as research dissemination activities in regard to a broad range of existing training programs (e.g., KL2 and BIRCWH programs) 

  • Evaluating the effectiveness of the SADII CEC in expanding learning opportunities, dissemination of sex and gender research, mentorship, and funded research