Oral Hepatitis B Vaccine Could Become A Reality

News ID: 697817 Service: Science
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TEHRAN (Tasnim) - In a new study, researchers reported progress toward perfecting a radical new method of producing vaccines using genetically modified corn. The approach could lead to an oral hepatitis B vaccine that requires no refrigeration and costs less than $1 per dose to manufacture.

"Even though an effective injectable hepatitis B vaccine was developed more than 30 years ago, high infection rates still persist in areas of the world where people cannot afford the vaccine or do not have reliable refrigeration," said John Howard, Ph.D., president of Applied Biotechnology Institute, which is developing the new vaccine.

"This research brings us a step closer to vaccines that can be distributed throughout the world without refrigeration requirements as well as administered quickly and inexpensively."

Vaccines work by exposing a person to a harmless version of a pathogen that primes the immune system to recognize and eliminate the pathogen if the person is later exposed to its more dangerous form. Most vaccines used today are made by growing weakened or inactivated versions of pathogens in eggs.

The biotech firm Applied Biotechnology Institute developed a radically different approach in which corn is genetically modified to produce a non-infectious hepatitis B virus-like particle. Flour made from the corn grain can be added to sugar and water to make an edible wafer.

The Applied Biotechnology Institute expects to receive FDA approval to start human trials of the corn-based hepatitis B vaccine within the next year. If no problems arise, a commercial version of the vaccine could be available as early as 2018. Other types of vaccines could also be developed using the corn-based approach.

Hepatitis B is caused by a virus that attacks the liver. It can cause lifelong infection, cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure and death. In the US, approximately 1.2 million people have chronic hepatitis B, with an estimated 40,000 new cases each year. Worldwide, hepatitis B has infected nearly 2 billion people.

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