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Single Technology Produces Vaccines for Multiple Infectious Diseases

Ebola diagnostics

Conducting Ebola diagnostics in the field (John Saindon, CDC.gov)

11 June 2018. A single technology platform is being used to design and produce vaccines that in tests with lab animals protect against a number of infectious diseases. A team from the company GeoVax Labs Inc. in Smyrna, Georgia reported their findings yesterday at a meeting of American Society for Microbiology in Atlanta.

Researchers from GeoVax Labs discussed results of proof-of-concept tests for vaccines designed to protect against Ebola, Zika, and Lassa fever — three different families of infectious diseases — with the company’s technology platform. That platform known as modified vaccinia Ankara, or MVA, delivers DNA or viruses, engineered to be benign, but still producing virus-like particles in the recipient. The virus-like particles are sufficiently similar to the real viruses to invoke an immune response in both antibodies and T-cells, but not cause the disease. GeoVax says the technology can also be used with vaccines against enveloped viruses, such as Ebola and Lassa fever, where the virus-like particles include pieces of the membranes surrounding the antigen proteins, to produce suitable immune responses.

The company tested vaccines designed to protect against each of the three diseases. The Ebola outbreak in 2014-15 caused a serious public health emergency in West Africa, with nearly 29,000 cases reported in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, leading to more than 11,000 deaths. Democratic Republic of the Congo is facing another Ebola outbreak this year. Zika is a continuing public health problem in Mexico, Central and South America, and Africa. Lassa fever is spread most often by person-to-person contact, with outbreaks currently reported in Nigeria.

The GeoVax team injected single vaccine doses in lab animals, followed by challenge injections of the disease-causing microbes. For the Zika vaccine, a single dose of the company’s vaccine protected all of the mice against the disease-causing virus injected into the animals’ brains. Similar mice without the vaccine lost weight and died within a week. The Lassa fever vaccine also protected test mice against challenge disease injections into the brain. The researchers tested the Ebola vaccine with guinea pigs, hamsters, and rhesus monkeys, all of whom were protected against challenge disease injections.

“These data demonstrate a broad utility of the platform especially for development of single-dose vaccines against infectious diseases suited to combat epidemic in resource constrained countries,” says Farshad Guirakhoo, GeoVax’s chief scientist in a company statement. GeoVax says the vaccines are stable when refrigerated, but can also be freeze-dried for settings where constant refrigeration is not available. And its vaccines, says the company, can also be scaled-up and produced quickly to respond to epidemics.

GeoVax’s lead product is a preventive vaccine to protect against HIV infections, now in intermediate-stage clinical trials. The company is also developing therapeutic vaccines for HIV, currently in preclinical tests. In addition to Ebola. Zika, and Lassa fever vaccines, GeoVax is developing preventive vaccines for Marburg, Sudan, malaria, and HPV viruses, as well as therapeutic vaccines for hepatitis-B and tumor-associated antigen cancer. The company’s work on Zika, Lassa fever, and HIV is funded by grants from National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of National Institutes of Health.

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