Image: Burnet Postdoctoral Research Scientist and study lead author Dr Jo-Anne Chan
New research led by Burnet Institute has demonstrated the effective use of a novel virus-like particles (VLPs) platform for malaria vaccines.
- The study utilises virus-like particles (VLPs) to develop immune responses to malaria antigens
- The antibodies generated by the VLPs in this study were effective in blocking malaria transmission
- The development of malaria blocking vaccines has been identified by WHO as a global health priority
The study, published in the international journal PLOS ONE, utilised a novel technology co-developed by German biopharmaceutical company, ARTES Biotechnology, and Burnet Institute.
It is based on the use of virus-like particles, which are nanoparticles that have the potential to generate strong immune responses and act as an effective platform for malaria vaccine delivery.
This work was performed in collaboration with David Wetzel, a PhD student based at ARTES Biotechnology, who led the production and characterisation of VLPs that were engineered to express malaria proteins.
“Our work has established a proof-of-concept for this VLPs platform for malaria vaccines,” study lead author, Burnet Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Dr Jo-Anne Chan, said.
“We were able to use these VLPs to express malaria antigens that we are interested in, targeted antigens that we know are important vaccine candidates, and then look at the antibody responses generated in animal models.
“The antibodies we were able to generate by using the VLPs were effective in blocking malaria transmission, which is a very encouraging step towards the end goal of this research, to inform the development of vaccines that prevent malaria transmission and promote elimination.”
The World Health Organization and the Gates Foundation have identified the development of vaccines that block the transmission of malaria from mosquitoes to humans as an important global goal.
Currently, the most advanced malaria vaccine (known as RTS,S) has been found to be moderately efficacious, and does not strongly prevent the transmission of malaria.
Therefore, new strategies for improved vaccine formulations that can generate potent and long-lasting immunity to malaria are urgently needed.
“With a transmission-blocking vaccine, our body produces an immune response so that when the mosquito bites an infected person it takes up those antibodies, which prevents the downstream development of parasites in the mosquito,” Dr Chan said.
“This means that the parasites are neutralised, and that mosquito is unable to transmit malaria into the next human that it bites.”
Dr Chan said the next step in the research is to validate the findings in a larger study, and extend the scope to include the development of VLPs displaying antigens expressed at other stages of malaria life cycle.
Collaborators in this study included ARTES Biotechnology GmbH, Monash University, Technical University of Dortmund, NIH, University of Melbourne, Ehime University and QIMR Berghofer, with funding provided by the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative and NHMRC.
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