James Bausano

Student: James Bausano

Project: Evaluating the Efficacy of a Group A Streptococcus Vaccine Candidate In Vitro | View Poster (PDF)

Institution: Lehigh University

Major: Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Advisor: Mayuresh Kothare


Annually, the Streptococcus pyogenes bacterium (also referred to as Group A Streptococcus, GAS) is responsible for approximately 500,000 deaths around the globe. GAS diseases range from mild infections such as pharyngitis to life-threatening diseases such as necrotizing fasciitis, streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, and sequelae such as rheumatic heart disease. Despite the public health burden attributed to the bacterium, there is no vaccine available to prevent GAS infections. To address the need for effective treatment, VaxForm, LLC is developing a vaccine candidate using a proprietary recombinant fusion protein. The fusion protein, SpeAB, combines inactivated forms of streptococcal pyogenic exotoxin A (SpeA) and streptococcal pyogenic exotoxin B (SpeB), both of which are important virulence factors in GAS infection. SpeB, a cysteine protease, cleaves host proteins to evade immune response against GAS. There is a great challenge in demonstrating protection against SpeB due to the toxin’s ubiquitous role. The objective of this project is to develop biochemical assays to show the production of functional anti-SpeB antibodies in mice immunized with the SpeAB vaccine. Gel electrophoresis was used to evaluate SpeB’s proteolytic activity on immunoglobulin type G (IgG) in the presence or absence of vaccinated mouse sera. Another assay currently in development is evaluating SpeB activity on another substrate, azocasein, whose cleavage is detected by spectrophotometric analysis. Results suggest that the spectrophotometric method is more sensitive and better suited to evaluate the in vitro neutralization of SpeB.

About James Bausano

James Bausano is a senior pursuing a B.S. in Chemical Engineering at Lehigh University. James conducts his research with VaxForm, LLC; a biotech startup at Ben Franklin Technology Ventures. His research objective is to demonstrate the efficacy of the startup’s Streptococcus pyogenes vaccine candidate in vitro via development of biochemical assays. James discovered his interest in biotechnology and R&D at Vaxform in May, 2018. Beyond Lehigh and VaxForm, James volunteers as a Spanish-English medical translator in Camden, NJ and is involved in various community projects right here in Bethlehem, PA. He is also in the process of starting his own LLC as an entrepreneur in cosmetics. James is planning to enter the workforce as a developmental engineer upon graduation.

Lehigh Engineering Undergraduate Research Symposium

Congratulations to the 2019 Undergraduate Research Symposium winners:

Read full coverage from this year's event here!