Researchers combine existing vaccine technology into new design method

Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital recently developed a new vaccine design method that could combine the benefits of whole-cell and acellular vaccination, the hospital announced on Monday.

The Multiple Antigen Presentation System allows for the rapid construction of new vaccines that simultaneously activate multiple arms of the immune system against one or more pathogens. The system generates vaccines that provide robust immune protection without as high an incidence of adverse side effects.

"Whole-cell vaccines elicit a broad range of immune responses, often just as an infection would, but can cause side effects and are hard to standardize," Richard Malley, one of the study's authors, said. "Acellular vaccines can provide good early immunity with less risk of side effects, but the immune responses they induce wane with time."

The MAPS method could let vaccine developers take a middle ground between whole-cell and acellular vaccines, stimulating both antibody and T-cell responses while reducing the risk of side effects.

In the study, researchers gave mice a MAPS-based vaccine to protect against a lethal pneumococcus infection. Ninety percent of the mice were protected against the infection while only 30 percent of the mice survived when they were vaccinated with the same antigens that were not bound using the MAPS method.

"The MAPS technology gives you the advantages of: whole-cell vaccines while being much more deliberate about which antigens you include; doing it in a quantitative and precise way; and including a number of antigens so as to try to replicate the effectiveness of whole-cell vaccination," Malley said. "The immunogenicity of these constructs is greater than the sum of their parts, somewhat because they are presented to the host as particles."

Malley said the technology could lead to changes in vaccine development for a broad range of diseases, including parasites, viruses and even cancer.

The researchers published the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday.