BREAKTHROUGHS BLOG

December 09, 2018

Research Roundup: UK vaccine center to help fight epidemics, global map of HIV reveals vaccine challenges, and researchers create antibodies to test and treat Zika

Ansley Kahn
Program Assistant
GHTC
PATH/Mike Wang

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The government of the United Kingdom (UK), through a public-private partnership called UK Research and Innovation, is building the country’s first vaccine manufacturing and innovation center with additional funding and expertise from Janssen, Merck & Co., and Wellcome Trust. The center will focus on creating rapid, cost-effective ways to develop and manufacture vaccines for clinical trials and global distribution, with Ebola and Lassa fever among the infectious diseases the center will tackle. The vaccine manufacturing and innovation center will be based in Oxford and is slated to open in 2022.

A comprehensive study in The Lancet Infectious Diseases shows the remarkable genetic diversity of HIV and reveals how the subtypes of the virus are distributed by country and region and where new strains are emerging. The systematic review and global survey found that the greatest diversity of HIV exists in Central Africa and subtype C causes the greatest number of HIV infections globally. Subtype C was also found to be the near-exclusive strain of HIV in southern Africa, where HIV prevalence is highest, strengthening the case for prioritizing the development of an HIV vaccine specific to this subtype. Overall, the study also highlighted the challenging nature of developing a vaccine against a virus that is so genetically diverse and widespread.

Researchers from Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine have developed six antibodies that could be used to test for and potentially treat Zika—a virus which has afflicted more than 1.5 million people worldwide and for which there is no effective vaccine or treatment. Inexpensive to produce and identifiable via means like a simple filter paper test in the field, these antibodies have the potential to provide protection against the virus or could also be used in an antibody-based diagnostic test for Zika, potentially providing an inexpensive and quick means of monitoring for the virus. One researcher noted, “Rapid spread of the disease within the epidemic regions, coupled with migration of infected persons, has underscored the need for rapid, robust and inexpensive diagnostic tools and therapeutics.”

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