Burnet ‘MicroCube’ vaccine gains international funding

First published: 20/08/2013

Updated at: 06/12/2013 at 10:49 am

This year, a collaboration between Burnet Institute’s Dr Rosemary Ffrench, Dr Fasseli Coulibaly from the Monash School of Biomedical Sciences and Professor Lorena Brown from the University of Melbourne, was awarded funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenges Explorations initiative provides funding for another two years to conduct further preclinical studies on a the novel vaccine platform, which could potentially be used to vaccinate for diseases like HIV.

Dr Rosemary Ffrench, head of Burnet’s Viral Immunology Group, said researchers were trying to use the naturally forming crystals proteins from insect viruses, to deliver vaccines designed to stimulate the immune system to make the right response in humans.

“Essentially it’s a minute crystal with a virus protein embedded within it, which we call the MicroCube vaccine,” she said. “The new crystal-based vaccine is being tested to see if it is a stable way to deliver vaccines. If so, we may have a way to deliver vaccines which are stable at high temperatures, for use in remote areas, where there may not be refrigeration. This would help enormously in the developing world.

“The first stage is a proof of concept of the vaccine delivery application,” she said. “If we can produce an influenza MicroCube vaccine that generates an immune response to that particular virus, then this will prove that the vaccine carrier works within a virus infection model. We may be then able to apply the vaccine model to other viruses, like HIV.”

The Burnet Institute’s NATA accredited ImmunoMonitoring Facility aids in the development of vaccines by working with Contract Research Organisations, in early phase human clinical trials, to test the development of appropriate immune responses (T Cell or antibodies) to the vaccine for each particular product.

“We’re very grateful for the continuing support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” Dr Ffrench said.

Photo Credit: Dr Fasseli Coulibaly at Monash University

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