Synthetic vaccine can be stored at warmer temperatures.

Infectious diseases continue to affect and kill people worldwide, with vaccination seen as the most powerful weapon against this threat. Vaccines are prepared from weakened forms of the agent, its toxins, or its surface proteins. The vaccine stimulates the immune system into recognizing the agent as a threat, destroy it, and to further recognize and destroy any of the microorganisms associated with that agent in the future. However, identifying the peptide sequences which trigger this protective immune response and to manufacture synthetic versions of these as the vaccine would be a desirable alternative. Theoretically this would mean there would be less risk of mutation or reversion, less risk of contamination by pathogenic or toxic substances, and chemical manipulation of the peptide structure could possibly increase thermostability and decrease side effects. Now, a study led by researchers at University of Bristol develops a synthetic vaccine which can be stored at warmer temperatures, removing the need for refrigeration. The team state their vaccine, developed for the mosquito-borne virus Chikungunya, was engineered using a synthetic protein scaffold that could revolutionise the way vaccines are designed, produced and stored. The opensource study is published in the journal Science Advances.

Previous studies show it is hoped that due to the ease in sequencing new strains and serotypes of microorganisms, synthetic vaccines could be rapidly modified to generate strain-specific responses. However, the approach is not without difficulties as often the antigen epitope, a region on the surface of an antigen capable of eliciting an immune response, is composed of various parts of the protein sequence coming together to build a three-dimensional structure. Therefore, modelling of these structures will be needed to generate the correct antigenic site synthetically. The current study uses Oracle’s cloud infrastructure to model and develop a self-assembling protein-based scaffold engineered to facilitate multiple antigenic epitopes.

The current study develops a protein that forms a multimeric particle resembling a virus that is completely safe as it has no genetic material inside. Results show the particle is incredibly stable even after months, without refrigeration, and is easy to modify and produce in high yields. Data findings show the particle can accommodate hundreds of epitopes, same or different, providing vast opportunity to fight multiple diseases in one sitting.

The lab state their vaccine candidate is easy to manufacture, extremely stable and elicits a powerful immune response. They go on to add that it can be stored and transported without refrigeration to countries and patients where it is needed most. They conclude that a wide range of applications in biomedical research will benefit from this exceptionally versatile multiple epitope platform.

The team surmise they have developed a self-assembling, multiple epitope synthetic vaccine system that can be stored at warmer temperatures. For the future, the researchers state their synthetic vaccine exhibited promising results in animal studies, setting the stage for a future vaccine to combat Chikungunya disease.

Source: University of Bristol

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