TBVI's research partner Norwegian University of Life Sciences receives a research grant of 10.2 million Norwegian Crowns (1.25 million euro) for the development of new TB vaccines. The grant is awarded by the Norwegian Programme for Global Health and Vaccination Research (GLOBVAC) for the period 1 September 2014- 31 August 2018. The research activitities will be executed in close collaboration with the TBVI network.
The grant will be used for a project that aims at developing bacteria commonly found in food products such as yoghurt as delivery vehicle for a tuberculosis vaccine. The bacteria used, Lactobacillus, are food-grade, they thrive in the human digestive system, and they survive the harsh conditions in parts of this system (e.g. the stomach). This approach could in principle lead to vaccines that are easy-to-produce (e.g. yoghurt), easy to store, and easy to administer (no needles). Moreover, such vaccines could, if successful, induce mucosal immunity, meaning that they would have a unique and much sought after ability to prevent (rather than combat) infection and reduce transmission.
The project builds on previous development of a genetic toolbox to engineer Lactobacillus strains so that they display vaccine components on their cell surface. Together with TBVI, the Norwegian researchers will select vaccine components (antigens and adjuvants) to be displayed, engineer bacterial strains and evaluated their efficacy as vaccines.
Project leader Prof. Vincent Eijsink of the Norwegian University of Life Sciences is extremely happy with this grant: "This grant gives us the opportunity to team up with TBVI, a top level international network with partners from higher, middle and lower income countries. By doing so, we will combine the best of international tuberculosis vaccine research with advanced safe microbial delivery technologies, while at the same time ensuring an optimal pipeline for communication, implementation and knowledge transfer."
TBVI is very excited about the new project. Project manager Daniëlle Roordink explains that this new approach of developing food-grade bacterial vectors, is very welcome. "The TB vaccine field needs new approaches like these to enlarge the chance of finding effective vaccines for all target groups."
The research comprises five interrelated activities:
- Designing and engineering Lactobacillus strains, based on the applicant's generic technologies and with help of international experts for antigen and adjuvant selection.
- Verification of immunological effects using cell cultures and basic mouse models, combined with a wide variety of response (immunological) analyses.
- Pre-clinical efficacy tests in standardized TBVI-quality-controlled mouse models.
- L. plantarum genome modification to increase the safety of promising strains.
- Implementation, in particular in terms of designing and implementing product development trajectories, knowledge transfer, and initiating follow-up activities.