Song Li, professor of bioengineering and bioengineering department chair, received a $149,916 grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to create a vaccine booster that could help the body defend against the coronavirus. Vaccine boosters are used after an initial vaccination to improve the efficiency of the immune system.

Li’s project will focus on developing an injectable biomaterial that can induce the formation of T memory stem cells, an important type of stem cell that plays a critical role in generating an immune response to combat viruses. In vaccine development, there is a major challenge that the elderly may not be able to mount a strong enough immunity. This approach seeks to address this challenge by increasing these stem cell counts to boost the immune response to vaccines against COVID-19.