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GEN News Highlights : Jan 4, 2010

Scientists Create Insect-Cell Approach to Produce Swine Flu Vaccines

Developers claim in Biotechnology Journal that the technique could generate new vaccines within 10 weeks of viral RNA sequencing.

Austrian scientists have established a new insect-cell production method for generating vaccines against swine flu H1N1. They claim the method is fast and efficient and could allow the generation of vaccines against novel swine flu subtypes within just 10 weeks of isolating the new viral RNA sequence.

The insect-cell technology was developed and tested by Florian Krammer, Ph.D., and colleagues at the Vienna Institute of BioTechnology at the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences. It uses a baculovirus expression system to generate swine-origin pandemic H1N1 influenza virus-like particles (VLPs) consisting of hemagglutinin and matrix protein.

When used to immunize mice, the VLPs triggered high serum antibody titers against the relevant strain as well as hemagglutination-inhibiting antibodies. The results are published in Biotechnology Journal in a paper titled “Swine-origin pandemic H1N1 influenza virus-like particles produced in insect cells induce neutralizing antibodies in BALB/c mice.”

The authors suggest that the VLP technology represents a promising fast, safe, and effective alternative vaccine approach, both for the production of annual influenza vaccines as well as newly emerging pandemic strains such as H1N1 or avian H5N1.

“VLP vaccines circumvent problems like slow growth of isolates and therefore unpredictable yields, mutation of HA through host adaptation, and the need for BSL-3 facilities, which are obligatory in cell culture-based production of inactivated pandemic influenza vaccines,” they state. “VLP vaccines could be produced in any standard equipped GP BSL-1 laboratory with an additional ultracentrifuge, a laminar flow hood, and a shaker or a wave bag device.”