We develop new vaccines against a number of infectious diseases!
Chlamydia trachomatis causes genital chlamydial infections, one of the most prevalent sexually transmitted bacterial infections (over 100 million cases estimated yearly worldwide). Unfortunately, the infection is often asymptomatic, especially in women. An untreated infection can cause many different complications and sequelae such as infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, and ectopic pregnancies. Despite effective antibiotic treatments and prevention, the incidence of chlamydial infections remains. This places a high burden on public health care systems. Also, this poses the risk of development of antibiotics resistance of the infection. Therefore, a vaccine against C. trachomatis infections is highly desirable.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
Experimental data from non-human primate studies of candidate Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) vaccines suggest that both cell- and antibody-mediated HIV-specific immune responses contribute to effective vaccines with functional antibodies to inhibit viral replication at the site of infection and cytotoxic cells directed against HIV-infected cells. There is a demand for development of HIV vaccine candidates that target mucosal sites of infection. Early HIV-1 infection is associated with extensive and rapid depletion of CD4+ T-cells in the Gut-Associated Lymphoid Tissue (GALT). Moreover, the progress to later stages of HIV disease (AIDS) is driven by gradual degradation of the mucosal tissues in the gut. Thus, a vaccine strategy that preserves GALT would be beneficial. One strategy would be oral vaccination, which gives an immune response in the gastrointestinal tract. We have previously expressed HIV antigens in plants and by oral feeding of mice induced both a local mucosal and a systemic immune response.
In a bid to develop an oral vaccine against HIV, we are exploring the use of probiotic strains of some common bacteria as expression systems for selected immunogenic HIV antigens. Probiotics are safe for oral consumption, and they are well adapted to the harsh physiology of the alimentary canal. The choice of probiotic bacteria for vaccine development is also largely based on their ability to replicate in the gut and, their ability to colonize the gut mucosa. Therefore, an ideal probiotic HIV vaccine should inhibit the rapid depletion of CD4+ T cells in the GALT following infection.
Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE)
Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is the most important viral tick-borne zoonosis in Sweden as well as in Europe. TBE virus (TBEV) infection often leads to severe CNS disease, including encephalitis and severe myelitis, which may lead to paralysis and respiratory failure in humans. There is an injectable TBE vaccine available, however, it has several limitations. For instance, you need at least three immunization to acquire full effect, which has to be followed up by additional life-long boosting every 3-5 years. Here we target specific TBEV proteins as a subunit vaccine for mucosal immunization delivered in combination with a live flavivirus strains with the ultimate goal to develop an improved TBE vaccine.
Viral Hemorrhagic fevers (Ebola virus, Crimean-Congo virus, Zika virus and Dengue virus) and viral Hepatitis (Hepatitis B virus, Hepatitis C virus and Hepatitis D virus)
Disease symptoms of viral Hemorrhagic fevers include severe fever and bleedings which may progress into liver and kidney failure. These emerging infectious diseases require innovative strategies to prevent future epidemics. By using attenuated cloned flaviviruses as platform for producing other flavivirus vaccine antigens of interest (e.g. against the Zika and Dengue viruses). Our developed flavivirus tools (replicons and packaging systems) will also be used to develop vaccines against important global diseases such as additional viral hemorrhagic fever (Ebola and Crimean-Congo virus) and viral hepatitis (Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and Hepatitis D virus).
Reinstate tolerance to treat autoimmune conditions
Autoimmune conditions, such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS) or rheumatoid arthritis (RA), are significant health problems worldwide. MS, RA and other autoimmune diseases cannot be cured but are treated with anti-inflammatory drugs that ameliorate symptoms and reduce tissue destruction. MS affects around 2.2 million people globally, while in Sweden the prevalence of the disease is particularly high at approximatively 0.2%. In MS central themes are inflammation in the central nervous system and eventual destruction of the myelin sheath of nerve cells, leading to different neurological symptoms. There are various medications available for treatment of MS. These can be for treatment of MS attacks or disease modifying therapies aiming to limit symptoms and delay disease progression. However, there is a clear unmet medical need as available MS medications do not cure the underlying condition and may carry considerable health risks. An alternative approach, aiming at a future cure for autoimmune diseases, could be to reinstate immunological tolerance specific for the antigens being under attack by the immune system in the different conditions.