A new type of vaccine that can be stored at warmer temperatures, removing the need for refrigeration, has been developed for mosquito-borne virus Chikungunya in a major advance in vaccine technology.
The findings, published in Science Advances today [Wednesday 25 September], reveal exceptionally promising results for the Chikungunya vaccine candidate, which has been engineered using a synthetic protein scaffold that could revolutionise the way vaccines are designed, produced and stored.
Infectious diseases continue to plague populations worldwide. Among the means at our disposal to counter this threat, vaccination has proven to be exceptionally powerful. Smallpox has been eradicated, measles, polio and tetanus constrained from the world by vaccination. However, severe challenges to human health persist, evidenced by epidemics caused by Ebola, Zika and others. This is particularly severe in developing countries which often lack adequate infrastructure and resources to prevent or manage outbreaks, bringing about disruption and damage in affected communities and massive economic shortfall.
A recent example is Chikungunya, a virus transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. The disease causes crippling headache, vomiting, swelling of limbs and can lead to death. Even if a fever ends abruptly, chronic symptoms such as intense joint pain, insomnia and extreme prostration remain. Formerly confined to sub-Saharan Africa, Chikungunya has recently spread worldwide as its mosquito host leaves its natural habitat due to deforestation and climate change, with recent outbreaks in USA and Europe causing alarm.
Researchers from the University of Bristol and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Grenoble, France, teamed up with computer technology giant Oracle to find a way to make vaccines that are thermostable (able to withstand warm temperatures), can be designed quickly and are easily produced.
“We were working with a protein that forms a multimeric particle resembling a virus but is completely safe, because it has no genetic material inside, said Pascal Fender, expert virologist at CNRS. “Completely by chance, we discovered that this particle was incredibly stable even after months, without refrigeration.”
“This particle has a very flexible, exposed surface that can be easily engineered, added Imre Berger, Director of the Max Planck-Bristol Centre for Minimal Biology in Bristol. “We figured that we could insert small, harmless bits of Chikungunya to generate a virus-like mimic we could potentially use as a vaccine.”
To validate their design, the scientists employed cryo-electron microscopy, a powerful new technique recently installed in Bristol’s state-of-the-art microscopy facility headed by Christiane Schaffitzel, co-author of the study. Cryo-EM yields very large data sets from which the structure of a sample can be determined at near atomic resolution, requiring massive parallel computing.
Enabled by Oracle’s high-performance cloud infrastructure, the team developed a novel computational approach to create an accurate digital model of the synthetic vaccine. University of Bristol IT specialists Christopher Woods and Matt Williams, together with colleagues at Oracle, implemented software packages seamlessly on the cloud in this pioneering effort. Christopher explained: “We were able to process the large data sets obtained by the microscope on the cloud in a fraction of the time and at much lower cost than previously thought possible.”
“Researchers have had a long tradition of building and installing their own super computers on-premises, but cloud computing is allowing them to run large data sets in record time, with fast connectivity and low latency. This is helping them crunch data and make scientific breakthroughs much faster. Going forward, technologies like machine learning and cloud computing will play a significant part in the scientific world, and we are delighted we could help the researchers with this important discovery,” added Phil Bates, leading cloud architect at Oracle.
The particles the scientists designed yielded exceptionally promising results in animal studies, soundly setting the stage for a future vaccine to combat Chikungunya disease.
“We were thoroughly delighted,” continued Imre Berger. “Viruses are waiting to strike, and we need to have the tools ready to tackle this global threat. Our vaccine candidate is easy to manufacture, extremely stable and elicits a powerful immune response. It can be stored and transported without refrigeration to countries and patients where it is most needed. Intriguingly, we can now rapidly engineer similar vaccines to combat many other infectious diseases just as well.”
“It really ticks a lot of boxes,” concluded Fred Garzoni, founder of Imophoron Ltd, a Bristol biotech start-up developing new vaccines derived from the present work. “Many challenges in the industry require innovative solutions, to bring powerful new vaccines to patients. Matching cutting-edge synthetic biology with cloud computing turned out to be a winner.”
The Latest on: Synthetic vaccines
via Google News
The Latest on: Synthetic vaccines
- Column: COVID vaccine a privilege Americans should not ignoreon January 17, 2021 at 3:01 am
Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is not only easy but also crucial to lifting all the restrictions we are living under worldwide.
- Coronavirus live: every UK adult 'to be offered first vaccine by September'; Sydney struggles to quash clusteron January 17, 2021 at 2:53 am
Dominic Raab says government aiming for early autumn target for first dose rollout; New South Wales records six new cases ...
- Frank A. Bures: COVID-19 vaccines’ mechanismson January 17, 2021 at 2:49 am
Clear as mud so far? All vaccines aim to expose your immune system to a foreign something to develop a defense. They won’t cause actual disease. The synthetic RNA vaccines deliver genetic information ...
- COVID-19 roundup: Pfizer vaccine works against variants, progress with one dose of J&Jon January 17, 2021 at 1:57 am
This week's roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments for COVID-19 looks into the vaccines currently on trial ...
- The Infodemic: Vaccines Didn't Spark COVID-19 Outbreak in Nursing Homeon January 15, 2021 at 10:56 am
Circulating on social media: Posts claiming that Polysorbate 80, a synthetic compound used to help keep ingredients together in vaccines, suppresses the immune system and can cross the blood-brain ...
- 3 Bioethical Questions About COVID-19 Vaccineson January 14, 2021 at 8:16 pm
A s the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the US expands from health care staff to elderly citizens and essential workers, Americans are weighing whether to get the shot when given the chance. Though the ...
- EEH: What should I expect when I get the COVID-19 vaccine?on January 14, 2021 at 1:37 pm
One of your neighbors posted in Health & Fitness. Click through to read what they have to say. (The views expressed in this post are the author’s own.) ...
- Doctor discusses COVID vaccine and pregnancy riskson January 14, 2021 at 10:19 am
The next phase will allow teachers, those in higher education, childcare workers, and those 70 and up to get the vaccine beginning Monday, Jan. 18. Both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines are ...
- Delaying second COVID-19 vaccine doses will make supplies last longer, but comes with riskson January 14, 2021 at 7:22 am
Some experts support giving a single vaccine dose to as many people as possible, while others want to vaccinate according to the protocol used during the clinical trials.
- Biomedical scientist explains how Covid-19 vaccines workon January 12, 2021 at 4:00 pm
California residents 65 and older now qualify for COVID-19 vaccinations. Questions about the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines still remain. Vaccine expert Dr. David Lo, a distinguished professor of biomedical ...
via Bing News