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Burnet Institute and GeoVax join forces to develop malaria vaccine

Tracy Parish

10 January, 2017

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Professor James Beeson (centre) is heading the malaria vaccine project.

Burnet Institute and US-based GeoVax Labs, Inc., have announced a research collaboration agreement for the development of a vaccine to prevent malaria and advance the goal of elimination.

Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by Plasmodium infection. Over 3 billion people globally live at risk of malaria and the disease causes more than 430,000 deaths each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Children under five years of age are particularly susceptible to malaria illness and death.

The collaborative project aims to develop highly effective vaccines against the two major causes of malaria Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax. This will include the design, construction, and characterisation of multiple malaria vaccine candidates using GeoVax’s MVA-VLP vaccine platform.

The vaccine design, construction, and characterisation will be performed at GeoVax in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, including Burnet’s lead vaccine candidates. Vaccines will be tested for their ability to generate potent immune responses at the Burnet Institute using unique functional assays that provide key information on vaccine efficacy.

Burnet Institute Deputy Director (People) and Head of the Malaria Immunity and Vaccines Laboratory, Professor James Beeson, said the collaboration is a significant step towards producing a commercial, effective malaria vaccine.

“Malaria is a complex disease and despite many decades of research and development efforts it has proven very challenging to develop a vaccine able to induce long-term protective immune responses in clinical studies,” Professor Beeson said.

“Burnet Institute has a long history of malaria research and the development of an effective vaccine is one of our key priorities. To achieve a much-needed highly effective malaria vaccine, a platform is needed that can induce potent and sustained protective immune responses by delivery of optimal selection of specific vaccine immunogens and combinations.

“The GeoVax MVA-VLP technology is an attractive platform for malaria vaccine development, and will be combined with Burnet’s candidate vaccine antigens and combinations. Burnet’s expertise will be critical in quantifying functional immunity to malaria to down-select and refine leading vaccine candidates aimed at generating potent and long-lasting protective immunity.”

GeoVax’s Chief Scientific Officer, Dr Farshad Guirakhoo, stated: “A first generation infection-blocking malaria vaccine, RTS,S, is under regulatory review. It requires four doses and has been recommended by the WHO for pilot implementation studies.

Since this vaccine is based on a single antigen and has modest efficacy (30-40 percent, depending on the age of subjects), the WHO has defined a Road Map for developing and licensing of next generation malaria vaccines. These vaccines are expected to contain multiple antigens designed to block both infection and transmission of malaria with at least a 75 percent efficacy rate,” he said.

“Although there is no single correlate of immunity defined for protection against malaria, there is good evidence that rapid and strong B and T cell responses against various stages of the parasites’ life cycle can be highly effective in preventing malaria.

“In multiple clinical trials, we have shown that our MVA-VLP-HIV vaccine (producing VLPs in vaccinated subjects) induces a Th1 biased immune response with both durable functional antibodies (IgG1 and IgG3) and CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses, both of which are hallmarks of an ideal malaria vaccine required for killing intracellular parasites. GeoVax’s proprietary MVA-VLP platform will be used to elicit high titer, durable antibody, and cellular responses to Burnet antigens selected to block both infection and transmission phases of the parasite.”

About GeoVax
GeoVax Labs, Inc., is a clinical-stage biotechnology company developing human vaccines against infectious diseases using its MVA-VLP vaccine platform. The Company’s development programs are focused on vaccines against HIV, Zika Virus, and hemorrhagic fever viruses (Ebola, Sudan, Marburg, Lassa). GeoVax also recently began programs to evaluate the use of its MVA-VLP platform in cancer immunotherapy, and for therapeutic use in chronic Hepatitis B infections. GeoVax’s vaccine platform supports in vivo production of non-infectious virus-like particles (VLPs) from the cells of the very person receiving the vaccine, mimicking a natural infection, stimulating both the humoral and cellular arms of the immune system to recognise, prevent, and control the target infection. For more information, visit www.geovax.com.

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Professor James Beeson

Deputy Director (People); Head of Malaria Research: Immunity, Vaccines and New Therapies Laboratory; Adjunct Professor Monash University

Telephone

+61385062442

Email

james.beeson@burnet.edu.au

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