Emergex and Bio-Manguinhos/Fiocruz Elucidate T Cell Epitopes Produced by Commercial Yellow Fever Vaccine

  • First identification of epitopes which shape CD8 T cell response to commercial live attenuated vaccine has implications across RNA virus vaccine development
  • Vaccine primes immune system against T cell epitopes that would be minor or subdominant in a natural infection and are derived from internal proteins

Abingdon, UK and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 19 August 2020 – Emergex Vaccines Holding Limited (‘Emergex’), a company tackling major global infectious disease threats through the development of synthetic ‘set point’ vaccines which prime the T cell immune response, and researchers at the Institute of Technology on Immunobiologicals of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Bio-Manguinhos/Fiocruz), today announce the determination of the MHC CD8 T cell epitope expression library for Fiocruz’s commercial yellow fever vaccine on six major HLA supertypes.

This epitope library, which is expressed on Class I molecules of cells infected with the vaccine virus, shapes the CD8 T cell repertoire that will generate immunity to future exposure to wild type yellow fever virus.

The results unexpectedly showed that despite the high molar abundance of the surface E glycoprotein, no T cell epitopes are derived from the E protein of yellow fever vaccine virus. All epitopes ranging in peptide size of 8 – 15aa were derived from internal proteins. This result contrasts with Emergex determined CD8 T cell expression libraries for wild type Dengue and Zika viruses in which epitopes from the analogous E proteins were found.

These results represent a first analysis of T cell epitopes produced by a live attenuated commercial vaccine and provide new insight into the mechanism of action of such vaccines. The results also have implications for the current development of COVID-19 vaccines that rely on a clinically relevant CD8 T cell response to epitopes derived from the spike glycoprotein.

Professor Thomas Rademacher, CEO and co-founder of Emergex, commented: “Live attenuated viral vaccines are universally recognized as the only vaccines produced to date that can safely control RNA viral infections. However, vaccines such as yellow fever, measles, and polio were all empirically developed by multiple passage in cell lines with the original yellow fever vaccine dating back to 1926. Recent deep sequencing studies of quasi species diversity of yellow fever and polio vaccines suggest a limit repertoire of variants compared to wild type viruses. These new results now suggest the mechanism by which these low bottleneck vaccines can generate long-term immunity without causing disease, highlighting the critical role of epitopes derived from internal viral proteins in generating a safe, effective and long-lived response. This has important implications for the development of RNA vaccines more widely, including those being developed for COVID-19.”

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For further information, please contact:

At the Company
Storme Moore-Thornicroft, Executive Director
Phone: +44 (0)1235 527589
Email: smt@emergexvaccines.com
Consilium Strategic Communications
Chris Gardner / Sue Stuart / Carina Jurs
Phone: +44 (0)20 3709 5700
Email: Emergex@consilium-comms.com
At George Mason University
Institute for Biohealth Innovation
Amy Adams
Executive Director
Phone: +1 703-993-2672
Email: avanmete@gmu.edu
College of Science
Tracy Mason
Assistant Dean, Strategic Communications
Phone: +1 703-229-2030
Email: tmason11@gmu.edu

About Emergex
Emergex, a UK-based biotechnology company headquartered in Abingdon, UK, is pioneering the development of set-point vaccines to address some of the world’s most immediate health threats such as Dengue Fever, Zika, Ebola, pandemic flu and serious intra-cellular bacterial infections.

These set-point vaccines are population based and modify the initial immune status of recipients in a way that ‘primes’ their immune systems to recognise subsequent infectious agents much like a natural infection would do, preventing an acute or severe manifestation of the disease.

Emergex combines validated technologies together with the very latest scientific insights to develop its vaccines, including using synthetic peptide codes determined on actual infected cells and using a proprietary gold nanoparticle carrier system for programming.

The Company has a growing pipeline of vaccine candidates. The most advanced development programme is a vaccine for Dengue Fever, which may also be disease modifying for other Flaviviruses such as the Zika and Yellow Fever viruses. Emergex also has programmes in development for a universal Influenza vaccine and a universal Filovirus vaccine (including viruses such as Ebola and Marburg) and discovery programmes for a Yellow Fever Booster vaccine and a Chikungunya vaccine.

Find out more online at www.emergexvaccines.com.

About George Mason University
George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls more than 37,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the last half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity, and commitment to accessibility.

The Institute for Biohealth Innovation (IBI) promotes and supports biohealth-related research activities of faculty, staff, and students at George Mason University. The IBI connects Mason researchers in biohealth with potential collaborators, both within the university and externally, to advance human health research. Learn more and hear more from our researchers at ibi.gmu.edu.

The College of Science at Mason is a leader in scientific discovery creating innovative solutions for the rapidly-changing needs of today’s world. Mason’s College of Science blends traditional science education with sought-after programs in disciplines as diverse as personalized medicine, infectious diseases, geoinformatics, climate dynamics, materials science, astronomy, forensic science, and applied mathematics. The College encourages meaningful education and research at all levels offering innovative undergraduate programs, minors, certificates, and graduate degree opportunities, as well as global, transfer-focused, and online, or hybrid, programs that allow professionals the opportunity to reskill or change careers. Learn more at science.gmu.edu.

George Mason University Biomedical Research Laboratory is one of thirteen Regional Biocontainment Laboratories constructed with funding support from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/National Institutes of Health (NIAID/NIH). The BRL is a state-of-the-art laboratory with biosafety level 3 and aerosolization capabilities where scientists perform pioneering research of infectious diseases, both emerging and potential bio threat agents. Learn more at ncbid.gmu.edu.