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GeoVax Labs, Scripps, Institute of Human Virology partner on Lassa fever vaccine

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

GeoVax Labs, a biotechnology company developing human vaccines, announced that it is collaborating with The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in La Jolla, California, and the Institute of Human Virology (IHV) at the University of Maryland Medical School in Baltimore for advanced development of a preventive vaccine against Lassa hemorrhagic fever virus (LASV).

GeoVax previously announced that its LASV vaccine candidate, GEO-LM01, provided 100% protection after single immunization, to mice infected with a lethal dose of a LASV reassortant. The intent of the three-way collaboration with TSRI and IHV is to evaluate additional LASV vaccine candidates to elucidate involvement of humoral and cellular arms of immunity in protection against LASV infections. 

Farshad Guirakhoo, Ph.D., GeoVax’s chief scientific officer, commented, “We are pleased to expand our collaboration with IHV, and to now work with Professor Erica Ollmann Saphire, PhD at TSRI as well, an expert in the structure of LASV and other viral hemorrhagic fever viruses. Our MVA-VLP vaccine platform is well-suited for quickly generating various candidates and testing them using a LASV reassortant challenge model developed at IHV.”

“The structural studies from the Saphire lab will help broaden and strengthen humoral immune responses to LASV. Fortunately, the MVA platform can easily accommodate these new constructs,” noted Maria Salvato, Ph.D., Professor of Medicine, Institute of Human Virology, University of Maryland School of Medicine.

“A major scientific challenge will be finding the best way to elicit a protective antibody response,” said Dr. Saphire. “Combining approaches and collaborative teams are the best way forward to developing these much-needed vaccines for human health.”

LASV, a member of the Arenavirus family, causes severe and often fatal hemorrhagic illnesses in West Africa, a region recently associated with a devastating Ebola virus (EBOV) outbreak. In contrast to the unpredictable epidemics of filoviruses such as EBOV, LASV is endemic in West Africa with an annual incidence of over 300,000, and leading to 5,000 to 10,000 deaths. Recent study data suggests that the number of annual LASV cases may in fact be significantly higher, with three million infections and 67,000 deaths (placing upwards of 200 million individuals at risk). Today, no treatment or vaccine is available to stem LASV epidemics, even though LASV kills more people in one year than the EBOV did in the last 41 years after its first epidemic in 1976 in West Africa.

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