Thursday, February 27, 2014

Virus Like Particles Applications for Bio-Defence Vaccine Delivery

Virus Like particles (VLPs) are a promising vaccine platform due to safety and efficiency. When we consider specific issues related to bio-defence vaccine development and of course non-bio-defence related vaccine R and D, VLP's would appear to be a highly promising technology. Bio-defence vaccines, particularly those which are perceived as less likely agents for development, testing and use for bio-terrorism and/or warfare,  have typically faced funding issues. BioShield and BARDA have attempted to level the playing field, but there remain significant concerns related to such investment. Its difficult to develop vaccines for diseases or therepeutic counter-measures for diseases which in some instances, have never occurred on a large scale or at all. As a bio-defence specialist and risk analyst, in my view, these vaccines and medical counter-measures are a critical aspect of public health protection. Threat reduction, on the security policy side is the perview of social sciences and the intelligence community, and although useful in countering the threat of bio-terrorism, it is not a replacement for the continued need to ensure public health security at the therapeutic level. The bio-defence community would be remiss in their responsibilities if they did not do this. Vaccines are costly and investment, partiuclarly in early stage or by the time a company is entering the "Valley of Death", is vital to production and ultimately public health security. 

Aside from reducing safety issues related to some vaccines and medical counter measures, VLPs may make investments in bio-defence vaccines and orphan drug research and development, a far more secure bet in terms of efficacy, safety, manufacturing costs, and timeline delivery. Investment in diseases which occurr naturally and have the potential to result in pandemic outbreaks with severe consequences to public health security, have typically been of more economic and investment interest than diseases which may or may not ever occur. It is the later group of vaccines, which is likely to benefit considerably from advanced VLP technology. One can imagine that even a product like VIG (Vaccinia Immune Globulin) for example, developed in the 1960's to treat those counter-indicated for smallpox vaccine, might be an interesting candidate. Still other neglected diseases could well benefit from advances in VLP research and development.

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