SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2016

VGTI Florida seeks to stop chikungunya spread with new vaccine

An official at the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute of Florida (VGTI Florida) announced on Monday that the non-profit biomedical research institute has developed a new platform vaccine technology that is expected to provide complete protection against the chikungunya virus infection.

"We have developed a novel virus-like particle vaccine that is a next-generation cell-culture technology unique from traditional vaccines which are predominantly produced in chicken eggs," Ted Ross, the program director of vaccines and viral immunity at VGTI Florida, said. "Our VLP platform uses specific proprietary proteins from the chikungunya virus capable of eliciting a potent robust and enduring immune response enabling the immune system to prevent replication of virus and thus prevent infection."

The arrival of another soaking wet rainy season in South Florida creates ideal conditions for mosquitoes to breed, thrive and spread the debilitating virus, which they can easily and efficiently transmit to humans. While there is currently no FDA-approved vaccine for the chikungunya virus, Ross said VGTI Florida has developed a new platform vaccine technology that is expected to protect against chikungunya.

While chikungunya is rarely fatal, the virus can infect multiple organs, including the liver, brain and muscles. The infection can result in severe muscle and joint pain, high fever, headache, rash and fatigue. Additionally, infection in the joints can lead to chronic diseases such as long-lasting arthritis.

VGTI Florida will present its VLP platform to government officials while exhibiting at the Military Health System Research Symposium on August 18-20 in Ft. Lauderdale at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort Hotel. VGTI Florida is currently seeking additional funding and partnering opportunities to rapidly advance Ross' VLP vaccines into human clinical studies to protect against a broad range of emerging viral threats.

"Our unique approach involves computationally optimizing certain protein targets expressed by the virus and delivering this payload via our VLP platform to better stimulate long-lasting immunity," Ross said. "We believe this approach can also be translated into the manufacture of many similar kinds of vaccines targeting virtually any viral threat, including the Ebola virus."