Faster future vaccine design
Glycoconjugate vaccines provide highly effective protection against disease. But so far, they have been developed by time-consuming trial and error. Now, an EU-funded project is building up knowledge and skills to better design these vaccines in a bid to bring treatments to patients faster and keep European pharmaceutical innovation competitive.
© Konstantin Yuganov - fotolia.com
Glycoconjugate vaccines are an advanced form of vaccine that has been highly successful against bacteria that cause common, potentially fatal infections, particularly in children. They combine sugars or glycans produced by the target bacterium strain, which generate an immune response, with carrier proteins that help the patient’s body ‘remember’ this response to protect it against future infection.
The EU-funded GLYCOVAX project is building up scientific knowledge and skills that allow glycoconjugate vaccine elements and production methods to be chosen in advance a process known as rational design. This method is faster and more cost-effective than the existing trial-and-error approach. It can bring new life-saving treatments to patients faster, improve existing medicines and keep European pharmaceutical research at the cutting edge of medical science.
Skills for innovation
GLYCOVAX brings together eight research organisations and two industrial partners to support 14 early-stage researchers in helping to develop a novel process for producing glycoconjugate vaccines.
The young researchers are being trained in innovative methods for tailoring vaccines to specific bacteria, learning how to synthesise glycans, study sugar-protein interactions, combine sugars and proteins and choose a vaccine’s optimum structure. Each student is applying these processes to bacteria that cause serious diseases: meningitis, neonatal infections or nosocomial infections (hospital-acquired infections).
The technical and project management skills they acquire will help them lead future academic or industrial research. At the same time, the close academia-industry cooperation provides unique experience that the students can use to translate future lab breakthroughs into the next generation of glycoconjugate vaccines.
GLYCOVAX received funding from the EU’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions programme.