Development and evaluation of vaccines against group B meningococcal disease (MenB)
Neisseria meningitides (Meningitis) is the cause of around 500,000 cases of meningitis and septicaemia every year and disproportionately affects children under two years. We have created new vaccines against MenB. To do this, we have characterised their immunogenicity, identified the optimal vaccine regimen, and evaluated their protective efficacy.
The fatality rate of Meningitis is 10% in resource-rich countries and has not decreased significantly since the 1950s. 30% of those who survive suffer severe long-term disability including deafness, amputation and cognitive impairment. Vaccination is the optimal way to reduce the mortality and morbidity from this disease, and vaccines against capsular groups A, C, W and Y are available. For capsular group B (MenB) however, two vaccines have recently been licensed, but they do not provide complete protection against MenB, especially in infants, who are at most risk of this devastating disease. Furthermore, these vaccines require multiple doses, which increases the cost of vaccine implementation. Moreover, the immune responses to the vaccine used in the UK is predicted to be short-lived.
Our projects aim to:
1. Develop new vaccines against capsular group B Neisseria meningitidis. This includes characterization of their immunogenicity, identification of the optimal vaccine regimen, and evaluation of their protective efficacy. We perform pre-clinical vaccine development up to early phase clinical trials.
2. Understand the immune mechanisms underlying immune responses to the existing MenB vaccines in order to inform future improvements and combination of vaccines.
Completed Clinical research
We have developed a vaccine with collaborators in Oxford University, Manchester University and NIBSC, named MenPF1, and have demonstrated that this vaccine is safe, immunogenic and induces protective antibody responses in a phase I clinical trial.
To understand the immune mechanisms underlying immune responses to the MenB vaccines, we analysed the responses of B-cells to the vaccine. These cells are an essential component of the immune system, they produce the antibodies that are able to fight the infection and also are responsible for the duration of the immune response.
Ongoing Clinical research
We are investigating the B-cell responses of adult volunteers to the MenB vaccine currently in use in the UK. To this end, adult volunteers were vaccinated, and we collected blood samples at several time points before and after each of the two injections. We are currently investigating the B-cell response specific to each component of the vaccine, in order to understand the duration of the antibody response.