R&D News: UTMB researchers develop new candidate vaccine for chikungunya virus
A single dose of the experimental vaccine protected lab mice from infection with the virus, according to a paper by researchers from UTMB at Galveston, Inviragen of Ft. Collins, Colorado, the University of Wisconsin, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the University of Alabama.
In the recent times, chikungunya virus has stricken millions of people in India, Southeast Asia and Africa.
â€œCurrently, we have no approved treatment or vaccine for chikungunya, and thereâ€™s a real need for an effective vaccine to protect against this debilitating and economically devastating infection,â€ said Scott Weaver, director of UTMBâ€™s Institute for Human Infections and Immunity, scientific director of the Galveston National Laboratory and senior author of the paper. â€œEverything weâ€™ve seen so far suggests this vaccine candidate could fill that need.â€
The experimental vaccine is a â€˜recombinant live-attenuated vaccineâ€™ created by genetically modifying the chikungunya virus using techniques developed with the initial support from the Western Regional Center of Excellence in Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases, headquartered at UTMB.
The resulting vaccine strain differs from wild-type chikungunya virus in two ways: it doesnâ€™t cause disease, and itâ€™s incapable of infecting mosquitoes; the latter trait is an important safety feature to ensure that the vaccine strain cannot initiate transmission in nonendemic locations where travelers might be immunized before a trip to Africa or Asia. But it still provokes an immune response to protect against future chikungunya infections.
Such a live virus vaccine would also be relatively economical to produce in large quantities - an important factor given the limited resources available in the areas hit hardest by chikungunya.
â€œWe need to slow this virus down in India and Southeast Asia, not just to protect the people there but to reduce the very real risk that it might become endemic here after an infected traveler arrives,â€ Weaver said. â€œThe best way to do that is with a vaccine, and if youâ€™re going to make a vaccine you have to look at where itâ€™s going to be used and what they can afford.â€
UTMB has signed a license agreement with Inviragen for commercialization of the new vaccine candidate.
In addition, the two partners have been chosen to receive a four-year, $3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to complete the preclinical development work needed submit an investigational new drug application to the FDA, opening the door to human trials.
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