European Research Consortium wants to develop novel vaccination against hepatitis C
HCVAX is a European joint project that reaches out to develop a vaccine against hepatitis C based on nanotechnology. The German Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung, HZI) in Braunschweig and its department “Vaccinology and Applied Microbiology” is now a part of the transnational consortium with researchers from Germany, France and Switzerland.
More than 170 million people are infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) worldwide. Also in Europe this form of hepatitis is a big problem with three per cent of the population affected. The virus is transmitted in operations such as transplantations or by the re-use of syringes for drug usage. Anti-viral treatments are very expensive, have serious side effects and are only effective for some patients. Most of the patients carry the infection for the rest of their lives, with the threat of later developing liver cirrhosis and cancer. Certainly, the most effective way to combat hepatitis C would be a vaccine against the virus – but to date no efficacious vaccine exists.
“We will pursue a completely new approach to develop a HCV vaccine,” says Prof. Carlos A. Guzmán, head of the Vaccinology Department at the HZI. With the help of innovative, biocompatible nanogels part of the genetic information of the virus is brought into the body by so-called “RNA replicons”.