PODS™ (POlyhedra Delivery System) exploits the unique properties of polyhedrin, a protein made by a cypovirus that infects silkworms. The polyhedrin protein forms small crystal cubes within infected insect cells. These crystals incorporate newly made copies of the virus into their crystal structure, protecting them following release from the insect, resulting in a distinct survival advantage. Genetic engineering techniques have now been used to adapt this viral survival mechanism to encapsulate essentially any protein, including vaccine proteins. As well as eliminating the need for cold storage, PODS™ crystals are resistant to acid and have the potential to provide vaccines that can be taken orally.
Study Partners: Prof Hajime Mori, Kyoto Institute of Technology, and Prof Ian Goodfellow, Cambridge University
Norovirus, also known as the winter vomiting causes significant health issues around the world. The Centre for Disease control (CDC) states "Worldwide, about one out of every five cases of acute gastroenteritis (diarrhea and vomiting illness) is caused by norovirus. Globally, norovirus is estimated to be the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis. It is responsible for 685 million cases every year, 200 million of these cases are among children younger than 5 years old. This leads to an estimated 50,000 child deaths every year, nearly all of which occur in developing countries".
Together with our collaborators in Cambridge and Kyoto, we are developing a virus-like protein (VLP) to act as a temperature-stable vaccine. The protein self-assembles before being incorporated into the PODS™ crystal.
Norovirus-like particles captured in a PODS™ crystal
Neglected Tropical Diseases
Study Partners: Dr John Tregoning, Imperial College London, and Prof Ian Goodfellow, Cambridge University
Neglected Tropical Diseases receive relatively little research funding, yet affect the health of 1.4 billion people, killing over 100,000 each year.
Vaccines can halt the spread of disease, but need to be kept cold. Keeping a "cold chain" all the way from production lab to clinic is particularly challenging in the poorest countries. So the development of vaccines that will still work without the need for cold storage is a major research goal.
Cell Guidance Systems is collaborating with Cambridge University's Department of Pathology and Imperial College London's Department of Medicine. The work is funded by a £0.5m Department of Health contract.
The viruses we are targeting are Lassa, Zika and Ebola. We are also evaluating H1N1 as part of the study. Four PODS™ proteins have been made for each target. These are being tested for their ability to generate antibodies that neutralize the spread of the virus. If the early stage studies are successful, we will seek funding for further development.