Teaming up
against Hep C

26 July 2016

A novel vaccine to prevent the spread of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the target of a collaboration between the Burnet Institute and German company ARTES Biotechnology.

Illustration of the Hepatitis C virus (top) and its occurence across countries (bottom)
Images published under CC BY-SA 3.0: top - by BruceBlaus; bottom - WHO-Guide: Hepatitis C, 2002

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that globally more than 500,000 people die each year from liver cirrhosis or liver cancer that are related to an infection with HCV. More than 130 million people are carriers of the blood-borne virus.

An HCV vaccine is urgently needed to reduce the high mortality rates associated with the HCV, which is endemic in many countries in Africa and Asia where access to diagnosis and treatment is limited.

By joining forces, the collaboration will combine Burnet's HepSeeVaxDelta™ technology, which is based on a viral surface protein called E2, with technology from ARTES that allows the production of large chimeric virus-like particle (VLP) vaccines.

This approach will result in VLPs that present the modified E2 on the surface, and targeted to dendritic cells will prime and prepare the immune system to fight the viral infection.

In a natural infection the virus avoids the immune system by presenting irrelevant targets on the virus, and this has also limited the development of an effective vaccine.

But Burnet's Associate Professor Heidi Drummer, who co-developed the HepSeeVaxDelta3™ technology, is confident that the new approach will overcome this problem by directing the immune response against the most important viral targets.

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