June 2011: Dengue fever vaccine moves forward

A new vaccine for dengue fever has proven safe and effective in preclinical studies involving nonhuman primates, scientists reported in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene this June.

cynomolgus macque and caretaker

A cynomolgus macaque and caretaker at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. (Photo by J. Lenon)

In 2006, InViragen, based in Fort Collins, Colorado, received a multi-million dollar grant from the National Institutes of Health to help develop a safe and effective dengue vaccine. The four-year grant funded a collaborative effort led by Dan Stinchcomb, InViragen’s chief executive officer, and involved scientists at the Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Jorge Osorio, assistant professor in the Department of Pathobiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, UW-Madison, is the lead author on the June paper and is also InViragen’s chief scientific officer.

The Wisconsin National Primate Research Center’s Animal Services Division helped acquire the cynomolgus macaques used for the study and performed much of the technical work, according to Division Associate Director Saverio Capuano.

The InViragen vaccine combination proved safe, induced neutralizing antibodies to all four dengue serotypes, and protected the monkeys against dengue infection, according to the authors.

The four dengue viruses, spread by mosquitoes, cause an estimated 0.5 to 2 million cases of life-threatening dengue hemorrhagic fever every year. “Recent dengue fever outbreaks in India, Pakistan and Cuba have emphasized the need for this vaccine,” stated Stinchcomb in an Inviragen press release announcing the grant. A dengue outbreak in Florida highlights the continuing global spread of the disease. Dengue fever is already a major public health problem in Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America and parts of Africa. If successful in human clinical trials, InViragen’s dengue vaccine may be used to protect children and adults in these endemic countries and to protect travelers to those regions from this debilitating and dangerous disease. (Read more at Inviragen's press release)

In collaboration with PharmaJet, based in Denver, Inviragen is also working on a needleless version of the vaccine, according to company releases. PharmaJets's jet injector creates a fine stream of pressurized liquid that penetrates the skin, quickly and effectively delivering doses of medicines and vaccines into different tissues. Jet injection eliminates needles from the process of administering vaccines and eliminates the costs and dangers associated with sharp needle waste.

Reference:

Osorio JE, Brewoo JN, Silengo SJ, Arguello J, Moldovan IR, Tary-Lehmann M, Powell TD, Livengood JA, Kinney RM, Huang CY, Stinchcomb DT. Efficacy of a Tetravalent Chimeric Dengue Vaccine (DENVax) in Cynomolgus Macaques. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2011 Jun;84(6):978-87. PMID: 21633037

-J. Lenon