Mary Burtnick: Development of subunit vaccines to combat meliodosis

Mary BurtnickTitle

Development of subunit vaccines to combat meliodosis


Mary Burtnick


Microbiology and Immunology


Mary Burtnick, Ph.D. is a professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. She received her Ph.D. in microbiology and infectious disease with a specialization in bacterial pathogenesis from the University of Calgary. Following this, she conducted postdoctoral training at the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation and at Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIH. She has over 25 years of experience working with Burkholderia pseudomallei and B. mallei and has published over 50 peer-reviewed articles focused on these important bacterial pathogens. Research in her laboratory is focused on identifying the molecular mechanisms used by B. pseudomallei and B. mallei to persist within eukaryotic cells. The main objective of her research is to use the information gained from these host-pathogen interaction studies to identify antigens that can be used to develop novel vaccines, diagnostics and immune assays to combat the diseases caused by these organisms. Additionally, she is the director for the Microbiology and Immunology Bachelor of Science program and teaches in several MICR courses.

Project overview

Vaccines are an effective means to combat infectious diseases. At present, there are no licensed vaccines to prevent melioidosis, an important emerging infectious disease caused by B. pseudomallei. Research in the Burtnick lab is currently focused on the development of melioidosis subunit vaccines that include a combination of polysaccharides and proteins. In collaboration with the Brett lab at the University, they have identified antigens that elicit robust, protective immune responses in animal models of infection and are in the process of advancing their lead vaccine candidate into a Phase I human clinical trial. The undergraduate student will work in a highly collaborative environment to help support projects focused on further understanding the safety, immunogenicity and protective capacity of melioidosis subunit vaccines. During the course of the projects, the student will be trained in various techniques in areas related to microbiology, immunology, molecular biology, bacterial genetics, cell biology, biochemistry, and chemistry. Day-to-day experiences will vary depending on the needs of the lab and will range from preparing reagents to culturing bacteria, cloning genes and purifying antigens to conducting immunological assays and processing data.

Pack Research Experience Program information and application