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UKHSA and Pirbright Institute collaborate to develop vaccines against henipaviruses

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The joint research aims to tackle the risk of outbreaks stemming from new or emerging henipaviruses and enhance epidemic preparedness.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and The Pirbright Institute have launched a new collaboration to develop vaccines against henipavirus, a genus of viruses that includes Nipah virus.

Funded by the Medical Research Council, this research aims to develop a vaccine that provides cross protection against the whole genus, addressing the threat of outbreaks from new or emerging henipaviruses and strengthening epidemic preparedness.

Scientists at UKHSA will evaluate the protective efficacy of vaccines developed by The Pirbright Institute by using use a model of Nipah virus disease, which mimics the infection in humans.

Professor Isabel Oliver, chief scientific officer at UKHSA, stated that the study would improve understanding of henipaviruses and enhance efforts to protect health from this “current and future global health threat.”

“The work will also make a vital contribution to the 100 Days Mission – an important initiative to make sure the world is better prepared for the next pandemic by accelerating the development of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines,” he added.

Determining whether vaccines for Nipah or other henipaviruses can provide cross-protection against related viruses is a crucial initial stage in the development of broadly acting vaccines, according to Dr Dalan Bailey, Viral Glycoproteins group leader and project lead for Pirbright.

“This is especially important as we try to build more robust pandemic preparedness plans in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, and we are delighted to be working with UKHSA on this project,” he said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has included the Nipah virus in its priority pathogen list, which consists of infectious agents that have the potential to cause pandemics. Most recent cases and outbreaks were primarily identified in Bangladesh and India.

The virus can be transmitted from animals to humans and can cause a range of symptoms, such as severe respiratory illness and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), with a high fatality rate. Unfortunately, there are presently no approved vaccines or treatments available for the infection.

UKHSA recently launched its world-leading Vaccine Development and Evaluation Centre (VDEC) to help develop life-saving new vaccines for the UK and worldwide.

 

 

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