Immunisation in Europe, Spain and Canada

Friday 30th September 2011
Saskatchewan University InterVac opens Courtesy:

A new EU funded collaborative research programme - Advanced Immunisation Technologies (ADITEC)- will accelerate the development of new and powerful technologies for the next generation of human vaccines. €30m of European Commission co-funding will enable ADITEC to establish a strong platform for innovation in a key area for human health. In Spain researchers successfully complete an HIV vaccine trial while in Canada. The $140m International Vaccine Centre (InterVac) at the University of Saskatchewan, the largest facility of its kind in North America - has officially opened.

A consortium of scientists from 42 research and industry bodies in 13 countries which will work together on the project, and a wide range of crucial aspects of vaccination; from basic research and  new technologies to clinical trials and public health.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn,  (right) European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, said:“New technologies are opening the door to fight those diseases for which vaccines could not be developed so far.  However, researchers in a single laboratory cannot tackle modern vaccine science in isolation, which is why we are bringing together some of Europe's top researchers in this area. By joining forces and pooling knowledge and expertise, we can take a big step towards transforming the medicine of the future."

ADITEC comprises a team of top European universities and research institutions complemented by US groups working on systems biology and adjuvants -components of vaccine formulations that enhance the efficacy of vaccines.

The project is also driven by a number of key European industries, both big pharmaceutical and small biotechnology companies. These corporations are focusing on specific innovative technologies that allow for better and safer vaccines. The World Health Organization is supporting the project as a senior partner, ensuring that cross-cutting global health aspects are taken into consideration.

This high-impact project seeks to achieve a number of clear goals.  It will focus on improved potency and safety of vaccines and their components, new routes and devices for administration of vaccines, optimised vaccination strategies and optimised formulations and vaccination methods for different age groups.  It will also look at giving better insight into the effects of gender, chronic diseases and genetic variation on vaccination. Finally, ADITEC will apply new technologies and it will help to establish them widely throughout Europe.

Researchers at the Spanish Superior Scientific Research Council (CSIC) have successfully completedPhase I human clinical trials of a HIV vaccine that came out with top marks after 90% of volunteers developed an immunological response against the virus. The MVA-B vaccine draws on the natural capabilities of the human immune system and "has proven to be as powerful as any other vaccine currently being studied, or even more", says (below right) Mariano Esteban, head researcher from CSIC's National Biotech Centre.

The MVA-B vaccine first showed promising signs back in 2008 when clinical trials involving mice and macaque monkeys demonstrated a very high efficiency against Simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV). Recent human trials involved 30 healthy volunteers, where 24 were treated with MVA-B, while the other 6 were treated with a placebo, carried out over a 48 week period.

Development of MVA-B is based on the insertion of four HIV genes in a previously used vaccine (MVA) for smallpox. When injected with the vaccine, a healthy immune system can react against the MVA, whilst the HIV genes are incapable of self-replicating.

This guarantees a safe clinical trial for HIV free volunteers. Furthermore by trialing the vaccine on healthy patients, the immune system can learn how to detect and combat the HIV virus components. "It is like showing a picture of the HIV so that it is able to recognize it if it sees it again in the future", says Esteban.

"Our body is full of lymphocytes, each of them programmed to fight against a different pathogen" continued Esteban. "Training is needed when it involves a pathogen, like the HIV one, which cannot be naturally defeated".

The trial demonstrated how the vaccine stimulates the production of lymphocytes B, which produces HIV attacking antibodies that block the virus from infecting healthy cells. Blood tests during the 48th week revealed that 72.7% of the treated volunteers had developed these HIV fighting antibodies.

However generating a long lasting response against future attacks truly renders the vaccine effective. This is achieved when the body maintains a basic memory level of T lymphocytes, generated after the first attack and can circulate the body for years. The T lymphocytes are responsible for stimulating the attacked cell's immune response, which can then identify and destroy the HIV virus. Blood tests during the 48th week revealed that the 85% of the patients maintained the memory T lymphocytes immune response.

"MVA-B immune profile meets, initially, the requirements for a promising HIV vaccine," says Esteban. Although it does not remove the virus from the body, the immune response induced by the vaccine could keep the virus under control by destroying the infected cell.

According to CSIC, "if this genetic cocktail passes Phase II and Phase III future clinic trials, and makes it into production, in the future HIV could be compared to herpes virus nowadays".
Phase I clinic trials will also commence with HIV infected volunteers to test its efficiency as a therapeutic vaccine.

The $140m International Vaccine Centre (InterVac) at the University of Saskatchewan,  largest facility of its kind in North America - has officially opened. 

Peter MacKinnon (right)  U of S president called it a "Stellar addition to our unique life sciences cluster and isan important national resource that will advance development of the next generation of vaccines to protect animal and human health, while fostering international collaborations and partnerships to help prevent a global pandemic." 

Operating as part of the U of S's Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organisation (VIDO), the new containment level 3 InterVac facility provides specially designed facilities for scientists to safely conduct research into diseases such as tuberculosis, hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS, SARS, influenza, and prion diseases such as chronic wasting disease and mad cow disease.

InterVac will enable larger-scale vaccine R&D than is currently possible in Canada and will help alleviate a worldwide shortage of specialised containment facility space for addressing many re-emerging and emerging diseases, the majority of which originate in animals. Scientists from across Canada and around the world will be able to use the facility.

"InterVac enhances our capacity to develop new tools, technologies and policies for preventing disease and saving both human and animal lives," said (left)  Karen Chad, U of S VP research. She added that InterVac is one of the few CL3 research facilities in the world with an educational mandate, providing high-calibre training opportunities for graduate students.

"InterVac ushers in a new era of vaccine research in Western Canada," said Andrew Potter (right) VIDO-InterVac director and CEO. 

The dual-wing InterVac building includes containment laboratories for research and training of graduate students, as well as an animal wing with multi-species accommodation.


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