Artes Biotechnology and Burnet Institute join forces to develop novel hepatitis C vaccine

The project will combine Burnet's HepSeeVaxDelta3 technology with Artes’ Metavax technology

Artes Biotechnology and Burnet Institute are developing a novel hepatitis C vaccine

German firm Artes Biotechnology and Australian virology and communicable disease research institute Burnet Institute have joined forces to develop a new vaccine to prevent transmission of hepatitis C virus (HCV).

The Langenfeld-based biotechnology firm says an HCV vaccine is urgently needed to prevent re-infection in people treated with 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.

This new hepatitis C vaccine project will combine Burnet's 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 partners aim to develop a VLP based vaccine that efficiently presents HCV antigens to prevent hepatitis C infection. The VLP 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.

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

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,' she said.

Dr Michael Piontek, Managing Director of Artes, said: '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 realise its 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.'

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