ARTES and Burnet Institute join forces to develop novel hepatitis C vaccine

ARTES Biotech­nol­o­gy and Bur­net Insti­tute announce they have joined forces to devel­op a nov­el, effec­tive vac­cine to pre­vent trans­mis­sion of hepati­tis C virus (HCV).

An HCV vac­cine is urgent­ly need­ed to pre­vent re-infec­tion in peo­ple treat­ed through antivi­ral ther­a­pies and reverse the high glob­al mor­tal­i­ty rates from infec­tion-relat­ed liv­er cir­rho­sis or liv­er can­cer, esti­mat­ed by the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion (WHO) to be more than 500,000 peo­ple each year. More than 130 mil­lion peo­ple glob­al­ly are car­ri­ers of HCV, a blood-borne virus.

The inno­v­a­tive hepati­tis C vac­cine project will com­bine Bur­nets’ pro­pri­etary HepSeeVaxDelta3™ tech­nol­o­gy, devel­oped by Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor Hei­di Drum­mer and col­leagues, with ARTES’ pro­pri­etary METAVAX® tech­nol­o­gy for the devel­op­ment of chimeric virus-like par­ti­cle (VLP) based vac­cines. The project aims to devel­op a VLP based vac­cine that effi­cient­ly presents HCV anti­gens to pre­vent hepati­tis C infec­tion. The VLPs will present the nov­el, mod­i­fied enve­lope pro­tein (E2) on its sur­face, there­by tar­get­ing the vac­cine to den­drit­ic cells to prime and pre­pare the immune sys­tem to fight against hepati­tis C infection.

Deputy Head of Burnet’s Cen­tre for Bio­med­ical Research and HCV vac­cine team leader, Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor Drum­mer said HepSeeVaxDelta3™ tech­nol­o­gy over­comes a crit­i­cal lim­i­ta­tion to HCV vac­cine devel­op­ment. “The virus that caus­es HCV has evolved to avoid the immune sys­tem so that in nat­ur­al infec­tion, key immune respons­es are delayed or dis­tract­ed by irrel­e­vant tar­gets on the virus. The same is true for con­ven­tion­al vac­cine plat­forms test­ed pre­vi­ous­ly. The HepSeeVaxDelta3™ com­po­nent of the vac­cine redi­rects the immune response to make anti­bod­ies on the most impor­tant tar­gets that pre­vent infec­tion against the sev­en cir­cu­lat­ing HCV genotypes.”

Man­ag­ing Direc­tor of ARTES, Dr Michael Pio­ntek said his com­pa­ny was excit­ed to join forces with Bur­net Insti­tute to devel­op a much-need­ed vac­cine against hepati­tis C, which is endem­ic in many coun­tries where treat­ment costs are high and HCV pos­es a sig­nif­i­cant bur­den on health­care sys­tems. “Access to diag­no­sis and treat­ment is lim­it­ed, espe­cial­ly in endem­ic coun­tries in Africa and Asia, so there is a strong demand for a safe and low-cost vac­cine to pre­vent hepati­tis C infec­tion. This is in-line with the aim of the WHO to real­ize their hepati­tis C elim­i­na­tion tar­gets. After out-licens­ing process­es for hepati­tis B vac­cine pro­duc­tion world­wide, ARTES is proud to take the next step togeth­er with Bur­net Insti­tute in fight­ing anoth­er life-threat­en­ing hepati­tis infection.”


The vac­cine devel­op­ment platform

ARTES’ vac­cine devel­op­ment plat­form METAVAX® in com­bi­na­tion with the expres­sion host Hansenu­la poly­mor­pha (rec­om­mend­ed by the WHO for hepati­tis B vac­cine pro­duc­tion) is the pre­ferred tool for the devel­op­ment of afford­able vac­cines. ARTES’ devel­op­ment plat­form is a unique and very eco­nom­i­cal approach to low-cost mass pro­duc­tion of safe and effec­tive vaccines.

Bur­net Institute’s HepSeeVaxDelta3™ tech­nol­o­gy is devel­oped by re-engi­neer­ing the major HCV viral sur­face pro­tein E2 to pro­duce the nov­el HepSeeVaxDelta3™ vac­cine. HepSeeVaxDelta3™ can gen­er­ate high lev­els of anti­bod­ies that can block repli­ca­tion of all sev­en geno­types of HCV in lab­o­ra­to­ry tests. This major sci­en­tif­ic advance offers the prospect of a sim­ple, uni­ver­sal vac­cine to pre­vent HCV infec­tion worldwide.