Sementis reports on innovative vaccine technology

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Australian company Sementis has partnered with researchers from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane and the University of South Australia in Adelaide to create a single vectored vaccine designed to produce immunity to both the Zika virus and chikungunya infections with a single vaccination. 

This altered vaccine - named the Sementis Copenhagen Vector (SCV) - is used as a vaccine delivery vehicle for the delivery of antigens from infectious diseases to create immunity upon vaccination.

The results from the collaboration have been published in the prestigious journal, Nature Communications

Sementis said it has now been invited to utilise the suite of preclinical services from the renowned National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the US Government's National Institutes of Health, to evaluate the SCV vaccine in a non-human primate vaccination study.

This will help prove the effectiveness of the vaccine in a species closely related to humans, it said, with the study fully funded by NIAID.

“The NIAID is a part of one of the largest and most reputable and prestigious public health institutes (National Institute of Health in the USA) in the world and so we are very grateful for this opportunity as it will give further credibility to our SCV platform technology,” said Sementis CEO and inventor of the technology, Dr Paul Howley.

“It was logical to create a single vaccine for both diseases. Zika virus and chikungunya are transmitted by the same mosquito and co-circulate in the Americas, Africa and Asia where a single mosquito bite can transmit both viruses at the same time,” he said.

According to Sementis chairman, Maurice O’Shannassy, “Combination vaccines have traditionally required multiple batch production runs and careful mixing in order to produce a vaccine for multiple diseases. We expect there to be numerous diseases and conditions that can be combined into one vaccine delivery vehicle using this technology.

“This SCV vaccine is produced using Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) cells, as are all our SCV-based vaccines, which are routinely used for large-scale manufacturing of biopharmaceuticals

“Being able to manufacture a vectored vaccine using CHO cells is a world first.  We believe that the production of a viral vectored vaccine in a CHO cell substrate is a revolution in terms of the improved economics of vaccine production and providing vaccines on a global scale.

“Our ground-breaking SCV system offers a number of advantages in the event of an outbreak, including rapid manufacture scale-up.”

Zika virus is an emerging virus transmitted by mosquitos where infection often causes no or mild initial symptoms. In some adults, it can lead to Guillain-Barre syndrome, a condition in which the immune system attacks the nerves. 

Chikungunya is a viral infection caused by the chikungunya virus that is also transmitted by mosquitos; the same mosquito species that can transmit Zika virus.

In some cases, chikungunya can be asymptomatic – persons do not exhibit symptoms, but those with symptoms usually suffer from sudden fever and severe muscle and joint pain. 

QIMR Berghofer Inflammation Biology group leader, Professor Andreas Suhrbier, said: "Pre-clinical proof-of-concept studies show that Sementis' new SCV vaccine can afford protection against chikungunya infection and prevent persistent virus-induced arthritic complications.   

“In addition, these studies have shown that the vaccine can afford protection against Zika virus infection and, very importantly, prevent the transmission of the virus during pregnancy to foetus and persistent infection of the testis."

University of South Australia Professor John Hayball said: "These findings confirm the versatility of SCV and its effectiveness as a delivery vehicle for a vaccine protecting against multiple infectious diseases."

“The results are very exciting and set the stage for Sementis to continue exploring the capacity and capability of the SCV in creating a single vaccine delivery vehicle for multi-disease vaccines that only require one manufacturing batch production run.”