Vaccine to treat gum disease may be on the way, companies say

A vaccine to treat severe gum disease is being developed in a new collaboration announced Dec. 10 between Sanofi Pasteur and CSL Limited.

CSL of Australia has signed an agreement with Sanofi Pasteur to finance a program in the Cooperative Research Centre for the further development of a vaccine to prevent and treat the severe gum disease periodontitis.

Up to 30 percent of Australian adults have the widespread gum disease, which causes gums to bleed and teeth to fall out. The condition has also been linked with heart disease, stroke, adverse pregnancy outcomes, dementia and cancer.

Following more than 10 years of research, scientists from the University of Melbourne and CSL, in the Cooperative Research Centre for Oral Health Science have identified candidate vaccine antigens for periodontitis.

“Periodontitis is a serious disease and dentists face a major challenge in treating it, because most people will not know they have the disease until it’s too late and the infection has progressed to advanced stages” said Eric Reynolds, CEO of the CRC for Oral Health Science and the head of the University of Melbourne’s Dental School.

This new vaccine approach targets the “ring leader” of a group of pathogenic bacteria that cause periodontitis, the bacterium called Porphyromonas gingivalis.

“We are very excited about this novel approach to the disease,” Reynolds said. “It will provide dentists and patients with a specific treatment, which prevents disease progression, rather than managing its symptoms and damaging consequences.”

“It has taken over 10 years to develop the vaccine to this stage,” said Andrew Cuthbertson, CSL’s chief scientific officer.

The vaccine development program involves identifying the bacterial peptides and proteins that trigger the immune response, and using these as the basis of vaccines. The vaccines are being tested in mouse models of periodontal disease. If there is a positive response, a vaccine will progress to clinical trials.

Should this program be successful, Sanofi Pasteur has an option to an exclusive worldwide license to commercialize the intellectual property associated with these products.