Maynooth University ’s Institute of Immunology has played a key role in the development of a more effective vaccine for pertussis (commonly known as whooping cough), which can be administered intranasally, making it available to greater numbers of people at a reduced cost.
Pertussis has demonstrated a resurgence in developed countries in recent years and the disease kills approximately 300,000 children worldwide annually. The ‘Child-Innovac’ research project has succeeded in testing in humans, for the first time, a live bacterial vaccine, genetically attenuated and specifically designed to be delivered as a nasal spray from birth. The nasal delivery introduces the whopping cough vaccine to the mucosa in the nose, which houses front-line immune defences against pathogens of the respiratory system.
The project, co-ordinated by Inserm (French National Institute of Health and Medical Research) with 10 partners based in seven European countries, has just published successful results from phase 1 clinical trials of the vaccine in human subjects. The team has managed to produce a vaccine for which the immunology and safety could be tested in humans in just two and a half years, compared with five to seven years for most similar projects. The project also provides proof of concept that the vaccine may be applied to other respiratory infections.
Discussing the breakthrough, Prof Bernard Mahon, Vice President for Research at Maynooth University and head of its Child-Innovac team said: “Child-Innovac was set up to produce a more effective solution for pertussis, or whopping cough, and we’re delighted to say that in a relatively short period of time we have produced a vaccine that indicates it will be an enhanced version. We set out to design a vaccine that’s cheaper to produce for developing countries, easier to deliver and capable of being delivered at birth, when we are most at risk. Our vaccine has achieved these objectives and we now look forward to bringing it to the next stage in its development.
“EU funding for research and the inter-laboratory partnerships that it facilitates is a highly effective way to find scientific solutions for global health issues and allows us bring together worldwide experts in their respective areas of specialisation. Projects such as Child-Innovac demonstrate that basic lifescience work is critically important to global health and to industry, which is increasingly turning to university research to fill the pipeline.”
The Maynooth University team involved in the project produced the models and tools to test whether the vaccine could be made effective and safe. The Child-Innovac Project received €5 million funding awarded by the European Commission.
Inserm has also announced that it has entered into an agreement with a biotech partner, ILiAD, and signed scientific collaboration and worldwide license agreements, to further develop the vaccine technology. The license agreement covers patent rights from Institut Pasteur de Lille, Inserm, Maynooth University and National University of Singapore.