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Published On: Mon, Nov 25th, 2013

Inovio’s MERS vaccine, SynCon DNA vaccine, induces ‘robust and durable immune responses’ in pre-clinical testing

Inovio Pharmaceuticals, Inc. announced recently that preclinical testing of a DNA synthetic vaccine for the virulent Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS) induced robust and durable immune responses, demonstrating the potential for a SynCon® DNA vaccine to prevent and treat this deadly virus.

 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) Image/CDC

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV)
Image/CDC

In this study, DNA vaccine constructs targeting multiple MERS antigens were generated using Inovio’s SynCon® vaccine platform. These SynCon constructs were administered via Inovio’s CELLECTRA® electroporation-based delivery technology. The vaccine constructs were observed to induce strong neutralizing antibodies and broad CD8+ T cells in mice. These findings are vital given the importance of neutralizing antibodies in preventing infection and the role T cells play in clearing infection by killing cells that harbor the virus.

Dr. J. Joseph Kim, Inovio’s President and CEO, said, “Our SynCon® platform has again generated a synthetic vaccine candidate that shows promise for providing a treatment where there is none. With human data showing the powerful killing effect of T cells generated by our vaccine for HIV and our therapy for HPV-associated cervical dysplasia and various cancers, we look forward to providing Inovio’s answer to MERS, a deadly infectious disease that has unknown pandemic potential. What’s even more impressive about our candidate vaccine is that it is designed with the goal to universally protect against multiple strains of MERS, which has been shown to have diverse genetic variants. With appropriate external funding, this product could become an effective shield against this deadly virus.”

To begin the study, a consensus MERS “spike” protein vaccine construct was created based on multiple strains of the MERS virus.  Inovio’s MERS DNA vaccine was immunogenic in mice and seroconversion, or the development of detectable specific antibodies in the blood as a result of immunization, was observed in all animals. Furthermore, the antibodies generated by the vaccine in 100% of mice (20 of 20) were able to neutralize or completely block actual infection of MERS virus in the cells, demonstrating the protective potential of this vaccine. In contrast, none of the unvaccinated mice in the control group (10) generated neutralizing antibodies.

Researchers also observed that vaccination was highly T-cell immunogenic, generating robust and broad T cell responses as extensively analyzed by the standardized T cell ELISPOT assay. The vaccine produced robust CD8+ and CD4+ T cell responses against multiple epitopes of the MERS spike protein. This increased diversity and magnitude of cellular responses may be critical for effectively mitigating MERS infection.

According to a World Health Organization (WHO) summary and literature update Nov. 22, since April 2012, 157 laboratory-confirmed and 19 probable cases of human infection with Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) have been reported to WHO. Three new countries—Spain, Kuwait, and Oman—have reported patients with MERS-CoV since the last update.

Infections in Kuwait and Oman were likely acquired locally, while the two probable cases reported by Spain were both recent travellers to the Middle East. The cases in Spain have not yet been confirmed, pending finalization of the laboratory testing.

To date, affected countries in the Middle East include Jordan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Oman and Kuwait. Europe countries reported include: France, Germany, the United Kingdom (UK), Italy and Spain, and in North Africa: Tunisia.

Of the total of confirmed and probable cases, 69 have died giving it a nearly 40 percent case fatality ratio.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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  1. MERS Coronavirus global total reaches 160 with three new cases confirmed in Saudi Arabia - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] Related story: Inovio’s MERS Vaccine, SynCon DNA Vaccine, Induces ‘Robust And Durable Immune Responses’ In Pr… […]

  2. Middle East Respiratory Coronavirus – The Next Deadly Epidemic? | InfectiousNews says:

    […] Information on a MERS-CoV vaccine – http://www.theglobaldispatch.com/inovios-mers-vaccine-syncon-dna-vaccine-induces-robust-and-durable-… […]

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