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World’s first synthetic, non-biologic vaccine developed

Published on 14/03/18 at 09:13am

One of the major challenges in delivering vaccinations to all parts of the globe is the need to keep the temperature regulated, with vaccines needing to stay at a cool temperature no matter the climate of the region in which they are transported.

Researchers from Cardiff University may have discovered a way to bypass this challenge, by creating the world’s first synthetic, non-biologic vaccine for influenza.

The vaccine can be delivered in oral form and is stable at room temperature – meaning that it could be delivered to areas where electricity is intermittent without fears that the vaccine would degrade.

This means that delivering the vaccine would be far more cost-efficient compared to the current cold chain solutions that are currently required; in addition, an oral form of the vaccine opens up the possibility for administering the required dose without the need for needles, ideal for those with a phobia of this delivery method.

Professor Andrew Sewell, from Cardiff University’s School of Medicine, who led the study, explained how the pill was developed: “The carbon molecules that form all proteins on Earth are left-handed molecules, but they also have a non-biologic, right-handed form. Even though these two forms of a molecule look identical at first glance they are actually mirror images of each other, just like our right and left hands, and cannot be superimposed on each other. The left-handed forms of proteins are easily digested and do not last long in nature. The unnatural, right-handed forms of these molecules are vastly more stable.

“Our demonstration that unnatural molecules, like these mirror image molecules, can be successfully used for vaccination opens up possibilities to explore the use of other unnatural, stable molecular ‘drugs’ as vaccines in the future.”

The pill was shown to be provoke an immune response in human cells in a culture dish and was also found to be as effective as standard biological vaccines when tested in mice.

The research is still several years away from being tested in humans but the ground work is there that could see oral vaccines offered as an alternative to injections. With the pill already developed for influenza, there is the possibility to also broaden the technology to other disease areas.

Ben Hargreaves

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