11 September 2019
New research led by Burnet Institute has demonstrated the effective use of a novel virus-like particles
(VLPs) platform for malaria vaccines.
The study, published in the international journal PLOS ONE, utilised a novel technology co-developed by
German biopharmaceutical company, ARTES Biotechnology, and Burnet Institute.
It is based on the use of virus-like particles, which are nanoparticles that have the potential to generate
strong immune responses and act as an effective platform for malaria vaccine delivery.
This work was performed in collaboration with David Wetzel, a PhD student based at ARTES Biotechnology,
who led the production and characterisation of VLPs that were engineered to express malaria proteins.
“Our work has established a proof-of-concept for the use of this VLPs platform for malaria vaccines,”
Burnet Institute Postdoctoral Research Scientist and study lead author, Dr Jo-Anne Chan, said.
“We were able to use these VLPs to express malaria antigens that we are interested in, targeted antigens
that we know are important vaccine candidates, and then look at the antibody responses generated in
“The antibodies we were able to generate by using the VLPs were effective in blocking malaria transmission,
which is a very encouraging step towards the end goal of this research, to inform the development of
vaccines that prevent malaria transmission and promote elimination.”
The World Health Organization and the Gates Foundation have identified the development of vaccines that
block the transmission of malaria from mosquitoes to humans as an important global goal.
Currently, the most advanced malaria vaccine (known as RTS,S) has been found to be moderately
efficacious, and does not strongly prevent the transmission of malaria.
Therefore, new strategies for improved vaccine formulations that can generate potent and long-lasting
immunity to malaria are urgently needed.
“With a transmission-blocking vaccine, our body produces an immune response so that when the mosquito
bites an infected person, it takes up those antibodies which prevent the downstream development of
parasites in the mosquito,” Dr Chan said.
“This means that the parasites are neutralised, and that mosquito is unable to transmit malaria into the
next human that it bites.”
Dr Chan said the next step in the research is to validate the findings in a larger study, and extend the scope
to include the development of VLPs displaying antigens expressed at other stages of malaria life cycle.
Collaborators in this study included ARTES Biotechnology GmbH, Monash University, Technical University of
Dortmund, NIH, University of Melbourne, Ehime University and QIMR Berghofer, with funding provided by
the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative and NHMRC.
Read the paper here: Burnet malaria paper
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