Herpes vaccine tests underway by company that made COVID-19 vaccines

Herpes vaccine tests underway by company that made COVID-19 vaccines

Ever since BioNTech and its accidental corporate partner Pfizer announced they had developed an mRNA vaccine for COVID-19, biotech researchers have been salivating over the promise of using mRNA vaccines for other pathogens. This speaks to the promise of mRNA vaccines: unlike conventional vaccine platforms, mRNA vaccines can be much more easily modified to treat new viruses. This has opened the door to the possibility of vaccines against viruses that had eluded immunologists, including retroviruses such as HIV – for which researchers are already working on an mRNA vaccine.

Such is the case with BioNTech’s latest effort with mRNA vaccines: Developing a vaccination for herpes, for which a vaccine has never existed.

It is estimated that more than 1 in 9 Americans between the ages of 14 and 49 have an HSV-2 infection.

Last week the German vaccine manufacturer announced that they are starting their first Phase I human trials for a vaccine developed to prevent herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2) and potentially herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV- 1). HSV-1 is associated with oral herpes, while HSV-2 is associated with genital herpes, although both can cause outbreaks in other parts of the body.

The new vaccine effort is the fruit of a joint research project with the University of Pennsylvania that began in 2018 with the goal of developing mRNA vaccines for a wide range of diseases.

Because this is Phase 1, it means that BioNTech has developed a vaccine candidate that promises to be both effective and safe. At the same time, the pharmaceutical company still needs to expand its tests to a large group of patients, which is known as Phase III. In the first phase, the company has just started testing the vaccine in humans. If the Phase I trials are successful, the company will gradually test the vaccine in a larger number of patients to prove it succeeds in preventing herpes infections.

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One of the intrinsic advantages of mRNA vaccines is that they are more malleable than conventional vaccine platforms. Traditional vaccines will take all or part of a particular pathogen (a microorganism that causes disease), introduce a dead or weakened version into the body, and thereby stimulate the immune system to make antibodies (cells that fight pathogen) that are specifically designed to destroy them. While this method of vaccine development is usually safe and effective, it can put scientists at a disadvantage when they have to create new inoculations that keep pace with different mutated variants of a given disease. In contrast, mRNA vaccines create synthetic versions of mRNA, a single-stranded RNA molecule that complements one of the DNA strands in the pathogen’s gene. By injecting a customized version of the mRNA into the body, the immune cells will produce proteins like those found in a particular virus or bacteria and train the immune system to fight the pathogen in question before it can make a person sick. man.

Regardless of whether the BioNTech vaccine ultimately proves effective, its mere existence is in one sense a testament to the marketing power of Big Pharma. Before the late 1970s, herpes rarely received public attention because it rarely posed a serious health risk to people suffering from it; The vast majority of herpes patients are either asymptomatic or have only mild symptoms. Indeed, it is estimated that more than 1 in 9 Americans between the ages of 14 and 49 have an HSV-2 infection. When herpes infections are symptomatic, the most common problems include painful urination, leaking urine, pain and itching around the genitals, and – most notoriously – sores that can appear around the mouth and genitals.

While few would argue that genital herpes is cute, it was not widely considered a particularly serious disease until an advertising campaign by the medical research company known as the Burroughs Wellcome Co. (now known as GlaxoSmithKline PLC). Because Burroughs Wellcome Co. had developed a first-of-its-kind treatment for genital herpes, Zovirax, they implemented an aggressive marketing plan that downplayed their drug and instead attached a stigma of shame to having genital herpes. This campaign involved the then-unusual act of a pharmaceutical company paying for full-page advertisements in national magazines depicting genital herpes as shameful. The goal was to “encourage people with herpes to see their doctor,” according to a Burroughs spokeswoman at the time.

Fast forward more than four decades and now medical experts believe they may have developed the ultimate herpes treatment. The upcoming study is expected to be observer-blinded and placebo-controlled, with patients including 100 healthy volunteers who have no current or past history of symptomatic genital herpes infections. If Phase I trials are successful and a vaccine is eventually released to the public, genital herpes could become a thing of the past.

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