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Reuters Health Information (2011-08-03): New approach is a step toward a hepatitis C vaccine


New approach is a step toward a hepatitis C vaccine

Last Updated: 2011-08-03 19:30:15 -0400 (Reuters Health)

LONDON (Reuters) - French scientists have developed a novel hepatitis C vaccine that may offer the first effective way to prevent infection with the virus.

There is currently no available vaccine against hepatitis C, although some companies are developing so-called "therapeutic vaccines," which are designed to help patients who are already infected.

The latest vaccine has been tested successfully on mice and monkeys, but not humans, and has been shown to activate neutralizing antibodies.

The antibodies fought off multiple variants of the hepatitis C virus in tests, suggesting the new vaccine should be effective even after the virus mutates, the researchers reported on Wednesday.

Neutralizing antibodies play a central role in most existing vaccines against other diseases, but harnessing them in hepatitis C has previously proved elusive. Work to date on therapeutic vaccines has focused on T-cells.

"For a preventative vaccine, neutralizing antibodies are absolutely essential, and for a therapeutic product they would also be a big advantage," David Klatzmann, a member of the research team, told Reuters.

Commercial interest in hepatitis C vaccines has been muted. French biotech company Transgene and Austria's Intercell are both testing therapeutic versions, but the main markets for a preventative shot would be in the developing world, which is less attractive for Big Pharma.

Commercial rights to the new vaccine are held by French start-up Epixis, which is being acquired by an undisclosed U.S. biotech company.

Epixis CEO Charlotte Dalba said she hoped that initial human trials of the vaccine could start in 2012, provided funding was in place.

The experimental vaccine uses virus-like particles, which resemble viruses but are non-infectious because they don't contain any viral genetic material. Details of its development were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

In an accompanying commentary, Ranjit Ray of Saint Louis University said the work to date on mice and macaque monkeys showed significant progress, though "many questions still remain."


Sci Transl Med 2011.

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