ARTES and Burnet Institute to develop Hepatitis C vaccine

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ARTES Biotechnology and Burnet Institute have joined forces to work towards development of a vaccine to prevent transmission of hepatitis C virus (HCV).

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates more than 500,000 people are infected globally every year. More than 130 million people globally are carriers of HCV.

The new project will combine Burnets’ HepSeeVaxDelta3 technology, developed by Associate Professor Heidi Drummer and colleagues, with ARTES’ METAVAX technology for the development of chimeric virus-like particle (VLP) based vaccines.

The project aims to develop a VLP based vaccine that efficiently presents HCV antigens to prevent hepatitis C infection. The VLPs 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.

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,” said Associate Professor Drummer.

Managing Director of ARTES, Dr Michael Piontek, said his company was excited to join forces with Burnet Institute to develop a much-needed vaccine against hepatitis C, which is endemic in many countries where treatment costs are high and HCV poses a significant burden on healthcare systems.

“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 their 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,” said Dr Piontek.