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Emergex takes big step towards new T cell vaccine

Published on 18 October 2022

– Vaccine construct comprised predominantly of peptides from early “eclipse phase” antigens targeting infections before viral replication is complete

– Peptide sequences of the vaccine construct are derived from variola (smallpox) virus and monkeypox virus antigens of the same viral family (Poxviridae)

– Construct has been synthesised to preclinical grade at Emergex’s in-house manufacturing site. Demonstrates Emergex’s ability to respond rapidly to emerging disease threats by creating experimental vaccine constructs using its highly adaptable, precise plug-and-play technology

Emergex Vaccines, a clinical-stage biotechnology company addressing major global infectious diseases through the development of fully synthetic CD8+ T cell Adaptive Vaccines, has announced that it has formulated and confirmed the synthesis and assembly of a CD8+ T cell Adaptive Vaccine for smallpox and monkeypox, comprised predominantly of early “eclipse phase” antigens.

The monkeypox virus is part of the same family of double-stranded DNA viruses (Poxviridae) as variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox; they share many highly conserved proteins that make ideal T cell vaccine targets. Emergex’s current formulation of the vaccine contains 20 viral peptides binding a range of human leukocyte antigens (HLA) that can present to CD8+ T cells to recognize and destroy viral-infected cells. The fact that the vaccine construct’s pathogen peptides come from the “eclipse phase” of viral replication plays a key role in infection kinetics. The “eclipse phase” is defined as the period between the entry of the virus’ genetic material into the host cell, causing infection, and the appearance of new mature virus in a host cell. Emergex’s vaccine construct primes T cells to target an infected cell, with an ideal outcome being an “abortive infection”. This is one mechanism of sterilizing immunity; however, vaccine-induced immunity can protect against future infection in the absence of sterilising immunity.

The vaccine construct has been synthesised to preclinical grade at Emergex’s in-house GMP manufacturing facility near Oxford with preclinical testing being performed in the laboratories at Emergex USA.

Phillip Williams, Chief Scientific Officer at Emergex commented: “We’re very proud to have synthesized this smallpox and monkeypox vaccine so quickly using intelligence and resources to target highly conserved sequences shared by both viruses. This accomplishment demonstrates our ability to respond rapidly to emerging disease threats by creating experimental vaccines using our highly adaptable plug-and-play technology.”

Professor Thomas Rademacher, Co-Founder and CEO at Emergex, added: “The recent global monkeypox outbreak and global shortages of smallpox vaccines highlight the urgent need for societies worldwide to be well prepared in advance of any future disease outbreaks. Our vaccine, which targets highly conserved antigens, is designed to be cross-reactive and convey protection from both smallpox and monkeypox viruses and may also confer protection against other members of the Pox family.”

Smallpox is an acute contagious disease caused by the variola virus, thought to have originated up to 3,000 years ago. It was a devastating disease that caused millions of deaths before the World Health Organization declared that it had been eradicated in 1980, widely considered an international public health triumph demonstrating the power of vaccines. Amongst survivors, the disease often left permanent and debilitating complications, such as severe scarring or blindness. With a fatality rate of >30% in unvaccinated people, there are concerns that smallpox could pose a future biosecurity threat.

Monkeypox is a zoonotic disease that is primarily dominant in tropical rainforest areas in Central and Western Africa. It can be transmitted between people through close contact with body fluids, respiratory droplets, and contaminated materials. Over the last ten months, 68,900 laboratory-confirmed cases of monkeypox and 25 deaths have been reported from 106 countries worldwide, the first time monkeypox has spread widely outside Central and West Africa.

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