A vaccine candidate against The Epstein-Barr virus

At the DZIF, EBV research has been ongoing for years. Now a promising vaccine candidate is passing from the laboratory to quality assured production. Subsequently, preclinical and early clinical studies can be carried out. The virus causes approximately 200,000 cases of cancer worldwide each year.

„This vaccine could have the potential to protect hundreds of thousands of teenagers and young adults from glandular fever every year.“
Prof. Wolfgang Hammerschmidt, Helmholtz Zentrum München
Project coordinator at the DZIF

Background

The Epstein Barr virus (EBV) is widespread: over 90 percent of the adult population are lifetime carriers of this herpesvirus. Infection is usually asymptomatic, however, this can be misleading as EBV can cause various other diseases such as glandular fever (infectious monoculeosis) and certain types of cancer, particularly in delayed infection. The virus poses a particularly high risk for immunocompromised patients. A vaccine is not yet available.

Development

First steps towards the development of the candidate vaccine started approximately 20 years ago at the Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health (HMGU) with the construction of a first generation of virus-like particles (VLPs) which were subsequently refined both at the HMGU and the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg. VLPs are empty virus protein envelopes lacking the viral genome but mimicking a real EBV infection to the immune system. Consequently, VLPs are safe and promising vaccine candidates as they efficiently induce both EBV-specific humoral and cellular immune responses.