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J&J reports promising Ebola vaccine data

Johnson & Johnson said the company’s Ebola vaccine regimen demonstrated antibody immune responses in adults and children, citing data published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.

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J&J on Pace for Another Vaccine Success, this Time for Ebola

(Reuters) – Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) said on Monday its Ebola vaccine regimen demonstrated antibody immune responses in adults and children, citing data published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.

The two-dose regimen was well-tolerated and induced antibody responses to the Zaire ebolavirus species 21 days after the second dose in 98% of all participants, the company said, citing data from a late-stage trial.

The regimen, Zabdeno and Mvabea, generated immune responses that persisted in adults for at least two years.

J&J added that there were no safety signals of concern.

“These peer-reviewed data support the prophylactic use of the Johnson & Johnson Ebola vaccine regimen to protect people at risk of Ebola, which is essential to our vision of preventing Ebola outbreaks before they can begin,” J&J’s Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels said.

The company added that a booster shot administered two years after the initial vaccination induced a strong immune response within seven days.

The Johnson & Johnson logo is displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., May 29, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Ebola typically kills about half of those it infects, although vaccines and new treatments have proven highly effective in reducing fatality rates.

Last month, the World Health Organisation warned that on top of the COVID-19 pandemic, West Africa is facing new outbreaks of the viral haemorrhagic fevers Marburg and Ebola, risking huge strains on ill-equipped health systems. read more

J&J’s vaccine regimen had received European approval in July 2020 and prequalification from the WHO, which allows medicines to be procured by developing countries, in April 2021.

Reporting by Shubham Kalia in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Shailesh Kuber

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

 

Reuters source:

https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/jj-says-ebola-vaccine-data-demonstrates-immune-responses-2021-09-13

 

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Researchers explain how nanomaterial aids antibody response, study it as antibody factory

AMES, Iowa – The researchers’ original task was to figure out how certain polymer nanomaterials provided for a low-inflammatory immune response and yet were able to boost antibody production as part of a single dose of vaccine. Credit: Nanovaccine…

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AMES, Iowa – The researchers’ original task was to figure out how certain polymer nanomaterials provided for a low-inflammatory immune response and yet were able to boost antibody production as part of a single dose of vaccine.

Credit: Nanovaccine Institute

AMES, Iowa – The researchers’ original task was to figure out how certain polymer nanomaterials provided for a low-inflammatory immune response and yet were able to boost antibody production as part of a single dose of vaccine.

Once they learned how these nanomaterials just 20 to 30 billionths of a meter in size acted as vaccine-aiding adjuvants, they decided to take the next scientific step.

Could these same tiny adjuvants carry real-world antigens to the immune system’s B cells and turn them into antibody-secreting factories? In addition, could this be an alternative way to produce laboratory antibodies for diagnostic and therapeutic applications?

The answers were yes. Cell-culture experiments with the technique produced antibodies against key antigens from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and the bacterium that causes pneumonic plague.

The initial observation and subsequent discovery show how researchers affiliated with the Nanovaccine Institute based at Iowa State University look at their research from many perspectives:

“This is a great example of the healthy tug of war between a basic research finding about the mechanism of antibody production and a translational benefit that we may have invented a new antibody-production platform,” said Balaji Narasimhan, the director of the Nanovaccine Institute, an Iowa State Anson Marston Distinguished Professor in Engineering and the Vlasta Klima Balloun Faculty Chair. “The Nanovaccine Institute is burning both sides of that candle.”

The journal Science Advances recently published the researchers’ findings. First author is Sujata Senapati, a former Iowa State doctoral student in chemical and biological engineering. Corresponding authors are Narasimhan and Surya Mallapragada, an Iowa State Anson Marston Distinguished Professor in Engineering, an associate vice president for research and the Carol Vohs Johnson Chair in Chemical and Biological Engineering. (See sidebar for the full research team.)

Grants from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a part of the National Institutes of Health, supported the researchers’ work.

It’s like a ladder

It was clear to the researchers that these nanomaterials – “pentablock copolymer micelles,” according to the researchers’ paper – helped B cells initiate antibody production. (Micelles are structures that self-assemble in water or oils as their molecules align because of their water-loving or water-hating properties.)

“From our studies, we understood very early on that these self-assembling micelles are different from the other types of adjuvants out there,” Senapati said. “What we didn’t know was the reason behind this unique type of immune response generated by them and that to me was the most intriguing part of this project.”

Mallapragada said the researchers were able to tailor the chemistry of the nanomaterials, creating “micelles with added functionality.”

One of those functions is the ability of positively charged micelles to associate with multiple antigens and directly interact with receptors on B cells, according to the paper. This cross-linking of the B cell receptors led to better antibody production and an enhanced immune response to a vaccine.

“These micelles act like a scaffold to cross-link two receptors,” said Michael Wannemuehler, an associate director of the Nanovaccine Institute and an Iowa State professor of veterinary microbiology and preventive medicine.

He said the cross-link is strong and stable, like a ladder hooked at both ends, and is effective at stimulating antibody production by the B cells.

That cellular activation came without the inflammatory response that accompanies other vaccine adjuvants, potentially producing a “‘just right’ immune response” that could be “critical in the rational design of vaccines for older adults” who often suffer from chronic inflammation, according to the paper.

Making lab antibodies

Now that the researchers understood the “behind-the-scenes” mechanism of the micelles’ antibody boost, Senapati said they wanted to see what else they could find.

“The next obvious step then was to test our hypothesis with antigens from some real-world pathogens and see if these micelles could be potentially used to produce antibodies against them,” she said.

They used the micelle scaffolds to present antigens for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes pneumonic plague, to B cells in culture.

Those cells began generating “laboratory-scale quantities of therapeutic antibodies” against the two antigens, “further expanding the value of these nanomaterials to rapidly develop countermeasures against infectious diseases,” according to the paper.

Those antibodies could potentially be used for diagnostic test kits or for treatments such as the monoclonal antibodies that have been developed to treat COVID-19, Wannemuehler said.

“There are different ways to produce antibodies,” Narasimhan said. “The method we found is an alternative that could be quite powerful if it’s generalized to other diseases. It could be a plug-and-play platform.”

Because it’s an effective vaccine adjuvant and antibody producer, the paper says the nanomaterial platform developed by the study team is “a highly versatile tool in the development of multiple countermeasures against emerging and reemerging infectious diseases.”

– 30 –

The research team

In addition to Balaji Narasimhan, Sujata Senapati, Surya Mallapragada and Michael Wannemuehler, the research team includes Ross Darling, a former Iowa State doctoral student in veterinary microbiology and preventive medicine; and Kathleen Ross, the core facility manager for the Nanovaccine Institute.

Read the paper

“Self-assembling synthetic nanoadjuvant scaffolds cross-link B cell receptors and represent new platform technology for therapeutic antibody production,” Science Advances, Aug. 4, 2021; Volume 7, Issue 32

 


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Spread & Containment

Addressing the HIV epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Working in partnership will be key, says Alex Kalomparis, vice president, public affairs, international at Gilead Sciences. 2021
The post Addressing the HIV epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia appeared first on .

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Working in partnership will be key, says Alex Kalomparis, vice president, public affairs, international at Gilead Sciences.

2021 marks 40 years since the first cases of HIV were reported. In that time, over 79 million people have been diagnosed with HIV, with more than 36 million dying from AIDS-related illnesses, more than any other infectious disease.

While there has been incredible progress in the HIV response, nearly 38 million people are living with HIV, with more than a million new cases every year, jeopardising the goal to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

HIV places enormous burdens on the communities it affects most, straining health systems and government budgets. In the era of the global COVID-19 pandemic, where health systems are already stretched to breaking, it is tempting to cut costs in other areas, including HIV. If commitment to the HIV response wanes, the progress we have made is at risk, leading to increases in new infections in regions that can least afford to tackle them.

“An epidemic somewhere is an epidemic everywhere”

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen the temptation to focus on one’s own backyard, isolate oneself from the rest of the world, and believe one is safe and protected. We know now that this protection is an illusion. Regardless of the protections we erect in our own countries, allowing public health crises to persist in other parts of the world threatens our own progress and safety.

The message is clear: an epidemic somewhere is an epidemic everywhere. To find our way out of a pandemic, we must broaden our ideas of how to respond, and address the problems and inequities that allow diseases to thrive in other parts of the world. To be effective, our response must be global.

The same is true for HIV. HIV has persisted for 40 years, and is still here because root problems continue to drive the epidemic: stigma and discrimination, poverty, lack of access to services and treatments, lack of access to education, and the marginalisation of the people and communities most at risk of HIV. These are not issues that can be addressed by any one government, group, or company. They can be addressed only in partnership with one another, and by engaging those key marginalised communities in our effort to end the HIV epidemic.

Whilst the global community has the tools it needs to meaningfully address new HIV infections, HIV is on the rise in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA). Unlike other regions in the world, rates of HIV in EECA have increased, with infections up by 72 per cent, and AIDS-related deaths up by 24 per cent since 2010.

Working with the Elton John AIDS Foundation

However, across EECA, a range of community partners are making significant contributions in the fight against HIV, such as the first wave of the RADIAN ‘Unmet Need’ fund and Model City grantees, previously announced in 2020. In the first nine months of the programme, these partners have already reached more than 12,000 people from vulnerable communities directly with services, initiating life-saving care in over 2,000 people living with HIV.

RADIAN, a ground-breaking partnership between Gilead Sciences and the Elton John AIDS Foundation, works with local experts to target new HIV infections and deaths from AIDS-related illnesses in EECA in the communities most vulnerable to HIV.

Focusing on the groups most affected by HIV in EECA (eg men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, and people who use drugs), RADIAN engages with groups led by these communities and are sensitive to the difficulties unique to the region.

“We all have one common goal: ending HIV”

Anne Aslett, CEO of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, is clear that for the partnership to reach its goals, it’s crucial to listen to and amplify the voices of people for whom HIV is a tangible, daily reality.

“They understand better than anyone the challenges associated with the virus, and what works to stop it. No matter where we are in the world, we must partner with them, and follow their leadership. We are proud of our RADIAN partnership with Gilead, to champion the vital work of communities to bring an end to the AIDS epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.”

Companies like Gilead Sciences provide industry leading expertise, while Governments bring an understanding of health systems and funding, developing an infrastructure that enables access.

However, these efforts need community leadership because they know best how to ensure people can access those systems to get tested, and adhere to medication. They understand the fears and sensitivities, the strengths and stigma within those communities, the nuances that make the difference in linking their members to the care they need. No two regions of the world experience the ‘same’ HIV epidemic. People living with HIV are critical to the success of any HIV response.

This autumn, RADIAN will launch a campaign telling the inspirational stories of ordinary, yet remarkable, community members who are taking action to turn the tide of the HIV epidemic in EECA.

We all have one common goal: ending HIV. It is crucial that we all understand the role we can play to achieve this. Our access to global networks of public health expertise, government funding, and innovative HIV treatments are meaningless unless they are used in service of people living with, and at risk of, HIV. They are the core of any successful response, regardless of country or region. Working in partnership with them is the key to ending HIV. By respecting them as leaders and giving them the seat at the head of the table, we make our work more effective and responsive to local needs, bringing us closer to the end of the HIV epidemic globally.

About the author 

Alex Kalomparis is vice president, public affairs, international at Gilead Sciences. He joined the company in January 2017 and is responsible for all communications and patient advocacy activities across Africa, Asia, Australia, Canada, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. Prior to that Alex held senior communication roles with a number of consumer and pharmaceutical companies, including Unilever, Rolls Royce, Novartis, Roche, AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline.

The post Addressing the HIV epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia appeared first on .

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Science

Your immune system is as unique as your fingerprint – new study

New discovery could help scientists develop more targeted drugs and vaccines.

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Christoph Burgstedt/Shutterstock

Every person appears to have a unique immune system. My colleagues and I discovered this immune diversity after charting antibodies in the blood from healthy and sick people. The discovery could help explain why, for example, COVID vaccines appear to be less effective for some people. At the same time, it points to the possibility of identifying and retrieving particularly effective antibodies from individuals and using them to cure others.

In our daily life, our body is confronted and attacked by many germs that use clever tricks to enter our body, aiming to take control. Luckily, we have a powerful defence: our immune system.

With a well-functioning immune system, we can combat most of the germs that continuously and aggressively approach us. Part of our arsenal of weapons to neutralise invading germs are protein molecules called antibodies. These antibodies are abundant in the blood, streaming throughout our body, forming the first line of defence when a new nasty germ appears.

Each different germ requires a different arsenal of weapons (antibodies) to combat them most efficiently. Luckily, our body has provided us with a means to make millions to even billions of different antibodies, but they cannot all be made at the same time. Often, specific antibodies are only made as a response to a particular germ.

If we are infected by bacteria, we start to make antibodies to attack and kill those bacteria. If we are infected by the coronavirus, we start to make antibodies to neutralise that virus. When infected with the flu virus, we again make other ones.

How antibodies fight coronavirus.

How many different antibodies are made at a given moment and are thus present in our blood, was not known. Many scientists estimated it to be over several billion and hence almost immeasurable. Using a few droplets of blood and a technique called mass spectrometry, my colleagues and I were able to capture and measure the number of different antibodies in the blood and also assess the exact concentration of each of them.

Two surprises

Although theoretically, our body has the capacity to make trillions of different antibodies, a first surprise came when we noted that in the bloodstream of both healthy and diseased people just a few tens to hundreds of distinct antibodies were present at high concentrations.

Monitoring these profiles from just a few droplets of blood, we were surprised for a second time when we noticed that the way the immune system responds to germs varies highly from person to person, with each person’s antibody profile being unique. And the concentrations of these antibodies change in a unique way during illness or after a vaccination. The results may explain why some people are more prone to becoming ill from flu or COVID, or why they recover faster from some illnesses than others do.

Until now, scientists considered it impossible to accurately map the highly complex mixture of antibodies in the blood. But mass spectrometry separates substances based on their molecular composition, and since each specific antibody has a distinct molecular composition, we were able to use a refinement of the technique to measure all antibodies individually.

The method has been used to measure antibody profiles in about 100 people, including COVID patients and people vaccinated with different COVID vaccines. Not once did we encounter the same antibodies in two different people, even if they had received the same vaccine. It’s safe to say that everyone’s antibody profile is as unique as their fingerprint.

Even though the differences in antibodies are small, they greatly influence the course of a disease. If someone makes fewer antibodies against a certain germ, or only antibodies that are less effective at killing the germ, then a disease might strike harder or several times. On the other hand, if people produce antibodies that are excellent at neutralising the germ, that antibody could be produced therapeutically and used to vaccinate or treat patients.

Our research creates opportunities to make optimal vaccinations and drugs tailored to an individual’s immune system. By mapping someone’s antibody profile, you can track how their body responds to a vaccine or infection – or even a drug treatment. This way, you can also check whether the body produces enough of the desired antibodies, for example, those against the coronavirus. If they don’t produce enough, you can consider offering booster shots or antibodies that worked for other people.

Albert Heck receives funding from the Netherlands Organization fro Scientific Research

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