Prophylactic HCV vaccines
The WHO estimates that the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) causes between 2.5 and 4.0 million new infections annually around the globe. If left untreated, these infections progress to chronic hepatitis in 70-80% of cases of which around 20% will develop into liver cirrhosis and approximately 5% will develop primary liver cancer. Since the discovery of the virus in 1989 by Dr. Michael Houghton and his colleagues, there has been good progress in producing diagnostics and screening tests to protect the blood supply. Moreover, we can expect new drug cocktails to be approved capable of curing most patients. However, the cost of these cocktails will be ~$100,000 per patient thus prohibiting their widespread use even in comparatively wealthy western countries like Canada, the USA, Germany and the rest of Europe. It is estimated that between 100,000 to 300,000 patients will receive therapy annually worldwide. Clearly, there is an urgent need for a vaccine to protect the international community against this blood-borne virus. In order to cover this unmet medical need, we are developing a vaccine against HCV. Our research is focused on:
- Identifying an envelope glycoprotein vaccine.
- Manufacturing the optimal vaccine under Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).
- Defining immune correlates of protection from studies of acute HCV infection in intravenous drug using (IVDU) populations and small animal models. These immune correlates of protection from chronic infection can then be used to monitor the induction of protective immune responses in clinical trials.
- Testing the safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine in a phase 1 clinical trial in healthy, uninfected volunteers
- Designing an efficacy trial in high-risk IVDUs.