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VA-2 Development of a therapeutic T-cell vaccine against Hepatitis C Virus (HCV)

The chronic infection with Hepatitis C Virus (HCV), which is a RNA virus belonging to the family of flaviviruses, poses a big health problem in both third world as well as industrialized countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) more than 170 million people are infected with HCV world-wide, and according to estimates of the Robert-Koch-Institute (RKI) there are at least 275.000 HCV positive individuals in Germany and approximately 5.000 new infections every year. HCV infection is a life-threatening disease which leads to liver cirrhosis, liver failure and liver carcinoma. Using the current standard therapy, a combination of pegylated interferon a and ribavirin, approximately 50-60% of the those patients that are available for therapy can be healed. However, since due to side effects and contraindications only a part of the patients can be treated, approximately 75% of all infected patients can not be healed. Thus, it is mandatory that current treatment regimens will be improved and new therapeutic approaches will be developed. To develop an efficient therapeutical and prophylactic vaccine, recent scientific findings have to be used as a theoretical background. The knowledge about immunological processes during the acute phase of a symptomatic HCV infection is extremely helpful, as approximately half of these patients resolve the virus infection spontaneously. Studies in both man and animals suggest that the strength and duration of the specific T-cell immune response in the early phase of infection is decisive for the outcome of the infection and whether the virus can be eliminated or not. The objective of this collaborative project with Immunsystems GmbH is the development of an efficient therapeutical and prophylactic HCV vaccine, which is supported by our expertise in vector development, high-throughput screening assays,. Hepatitis Virus diagnostics as well as virus-specific T-cell immunology. This vaccine should be able to neutralize a broad spectrum of different HCV isolates, and be efficient in patients and individuals with different histocompatibility genes.


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