Washington: Researchers developed a new type of vaccine for mosquito-borne virus Chikungunya. Since the vaccine does not require refrigeration, it is considered a major advancement in vaccine technology. The findings, published in the journal — Science Advances today - revealed exceptionally promising results for the Chikungunya vaccine candidate, which has been engineered using a synthetic protein scaffold that could revolutionise the way vaccines are designed, produced and stored.
Researchers from the University of Bristol and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Grenoble, France, teamed up with computer technology giant Oracle to find a way to make vaccines that are thermostable (able to withstand warm temperatures), can be designed quickly and are easily produced.
“We were working with a protein that forms a multimeric particle resembling a virus but is completely safe because it has no genetic material inside”, said Pascal Fender, an expert virologist at CNRS. “Completely by chance, we discovered that this particle was incredibly stable even after months, without refrigeration.”
“This particle has a very flexible, exposed surface that can be easily engineered, added Imre Berger, Director of the Max Planck-Bristol Centre for Minimal Biology in Bristol. We figured that we could insert small, harmless bits of Chikungunya to generate a virus-like mimic we could potentially use as a vaccine.”
To validate their design, the scientists employed cryo-electron microscopy, a powerful new technique recently installed in Bristol's state-of-the-art microscopy facility headed by Christiane Schaffitzel, co-author of the study. Cryo-EM yields very large data sets from which the structure of a sample can be determined at near-atomic resolution, requiring massive parallel computing. The particles designed yielded exceptionally promising results in animal studies, soundly setting the stage for a future vaccine to combat Chikungunya disease.