2020-02-20

Hope for hepatitis B patients

New research project under the European Horizon 2020 programme is to develop a therapeutic vaccine to cure hepatitis B

More than three percent of the world's population (about 260 million humans) are chronically infected with the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Worldwide 880,000 humans die each year from the sequelae: liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Currently, there is no cure. The therapeutic vaccine TherVacB aims to cure patients with chronic hepatitis B. A consortium of leading virologists, immunologists and specialized physicians will use a newly designed vaccine as an immunotherapy in a two-year clinical trial starting in 2021. Researchers from the HZI will contribute an adjuvant that increases the vaccine response, and they will bring in their expertise in preparing the clinical trial. The project is supported by the European Union with 10,426,000 Euros over a period of five years and is coordinated by Prof Ulrike Protzer from Helmholtz Zentrum München.

© Fotolia/Tatiana ShepelevaIllustration of a hepatitis virus. © Fotolia/Tatiana ShepelevaProf Carlos A. Guzmán, head of the HZI department “Vaccinology and Applied Microbiology”, together with his team developed the adjuvant c-di-AMP, which is incorporated in the TherVacB vaccine. “We will not only contribute c-di-AMP but also our expertise in order to assist in preparing the clinical trial dossiers and obtaining regulatory approval,” says Guzman.

The vaccine will be administered as follows: With three vaccine shots, one every four weeks, the vaccine induces neutralizing antibodies and T-cell responses. At first, two protein antigens are injected, followed by an MVA (“modified vaccinia virus Ankara”) vector. This vector is designed to express hepatitis B viruses found worldwide. Since Africa suffers from a high infection rate and particular HBV viruses can be found there, part of the clinical trial will be conducted in Tanzania. This shall also help build local capacities for diagnosing and treating hepatitis B.

The parties involved

The TherVacB project is coordinated by Helmholtz Zentrum München and unites public research organisations from across Europe: Klinikum Rechts der Isar der Technischen Universität München, Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf, Medizinische Hochschule Hannover, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Universität Leipzig, Technische Universität München; National Institute for Medical Research (Tanzania); Fundacio Clinic per a la Recerca Biomedica (Spain); Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria di Parma (Italy); University College London, Barts and the London NHS Trust, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust (United Kingdom), supported by Biotechnology related enterprise members CTC North GmbH & Co. KG (Germany) and ARTTIC (France).

About Horizon 2020

Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly 80 billion Euros of funding available over seven years (2014 to 2020). It promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market. The project is funded in a specific call about innovative treatments and technologies such as gene or cell therapies. With this specific call the European Union aims to improve the development of advanced methods and devices for targeted and controlled delivery, and to bring these innovative treatments to the patient.

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