Vaccine Development & Therapeutics
The worldwide eradication of polio is one of the main focus areas for the Vaccine Development and Therapeutics Program. Although polio has disappeared from the Western Hemisphere and Europe, the virus still permanently cripples children in Africa and Asia every year.
The problem is mediated by the vaccine used to prevent the disease – the oral polio vaccine (OPV). This vaccine uses weakened viruses to elicit immunity against the three strains of polio known as types 1, 2 and 3. Ongoing vaccination would not be worrisome if the viruses in the oral vaccine were benign; however, the weakened viruses can revert to wild type disease-causing pathogens and provoke the very illness they are meant to prevent. In places where wild poliovirus is still a threat, the risk from natural infection is greater than the small hazard the vaccine poses. However, to eradicate poliovirus the world must switch to an expensive, alternative vaccine used in wealthier nations that consists of an injected formulation of inactivated, or “killed,” viruses known as IPV. All viruses, including poliovirus, utilize host cell genes and machinery to replicate. At the same time, infected cells including vaccine cell lines, express gene products to interfere or resist virus replication.
The aim of our research is to increase production of polio virus vaccine by silencing non-essential virus resistance genes in a vaccine cell line, thereby reducing costs and increasing polio vaccine availability.This study directly addresses the post-eradication challenge of the high cost of IPV manufacturing.