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Oxford, United Kingdom

Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: Innovate UK | Program: | Phase: Smart - Proof of Concept | Award Amount: 56.75K | Year: 2014

One of the greatest challenges to human and animal health, particularly to young adults, is the threat of emerging infectious diseases, which can spread rapidly across countries and through unprotected populations. Many of these threats come from virus diseases, in which mutations enables a virus to spread into new animal or human populations. It is therefore important that we can respond by the production of new vaccines in a timely manner. Effective vaccines to many virus diseases can be made by immunising people or animals with a non-infectious particle that mimics the infectious agent; such particles are usually referred to as virus-like particles (VLPs). In recent years it has been shown that an insect-specific virus, a baculovirus (BV), can be used as a tool to deliver the blueprint for the target vaccine VLP into an insect host cell, which then acts as a factory to produce large quantities of the required VLP vaccine. This so called BV system is safe, because only insect viruses are used; is rapid, new VLP vaccines can be produced in a just a few weeks; and is easily scalable to produce 1000s vaccine doses. BV-derived vaccines have already been approved for use in animals and humans and so have a successful track record. However, as more VLPs have been produced in insect cells, a significant hurdle has been discovered; in many cases it is difficult to separate the desired VLP from the baculovirus particle and this has lead to time consuming and laborious purification techniques that have often led to poor yields or even no useful VLP product at all. Our project aims to address this technical challenge by testing a novel BV system in which we can control production of the baculovirus particle, by using what is essentially a molecular on/off switch. If our control system works, we will be able to switch off BV particle synthesis at the time of target VLP production and thus avoid the need for any further purification steps.

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