Scientists developing new methods to identify vaccine components

A new functional screening method is being developed to speed vaccine production and increase safety and efficacy.

Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute have used high-throughput methods to identify an immune activity modulator that exists naturally in a pathogen and can be used in the development of an influenza vaccine adjuvant, according to Sciencedaily.com.

Infection by a parapoxvirus generally causes immune cells to accumulate at the point of infection. Screening for this activity allowed researchers to isolate a unique immunomodulator they labeled B2. When added to a traditional influenza vaccine, B2 functions to improve the vaccine's protective capacity.

B2 has also proven effective in shrinking the size of cancerous tumors in the absence of an accompanying specific antigen.

In recent years, vaccine researchers have been able to develop vaccines using only selected portions of a given pathogen to confer immunity. Such subunit vaccines can have significant advantages, including the elimination of side effects and the ability for the vaccine to elude immune detection, Sciencedaily.com reports.

The process of identifying appropriate subunit candidates from the complete genome of a pathogen has often been extremely difficult. The newly developed screening method, called expression library immunization, is considered simple but powerful.

The method offers a means to rapidly screen entire genomes with the results limited to those expressing desired immunogenic traits. It has been used engineer a new hepatitis vaccine and is expected to provide a new means of developing protective agents against more elusive pathogens like HIV and Ebola.