The Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology is helping Airbus to develop suitable measures to rid aircraft cabins of viral pathogens (such as SARS-CoV-2).
The inactivation of pathogens using low-energy electron irradiation (LEEI) has long since been a key research area at Fraunhofer IZI. The ionizing radiation destroys the germs’ nucleic acids while leaving structural components such as proteins largely intact. This presents a significant advantage over chemical or other physical inactivation methods such as incubation with formaldehyde or heat treatment. Ionizing radiation techniques currently used for sterilization purposes (gamma or roentgen radiation) may only be utilized in specifically shielded buildings so as to avoid any danger being posed to people or the environment. This has prevented their use not only in normal biological and medical laboratories but also in biopharmaceutical manufacturing.
In close cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institutes IPA and FEP, an LEEI pilot facility has been developed that dispenses with major shielding structures. In the reporting year, various automated processes were established using the pilot facility which are able to fully inactivate pathogen suspensions on a multi-liter scale. This facilitates the use of the LEEI procedure in the production of pharmaceuticals. Several bacteria and viruses have been inactivated with the automated LEEI processes and investigations have been conducted into the preservation of the protein antigens following irradiation. The material was subsequently used in several vaccine studies. Taking respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) as an example, it could be shown that proteins, which play a decisive role in inducing a protective immune response, are hardly damaged as a result of irradiation. A complete protective effect could therefore be offered by the vaccine based on the material. These experiments form the basis of the further development of LEEI-based pharmaceutical drugs. In collaboration with a leading company from the field of laboratory automation, devices are now being developed that facilitate the integration of LEEI in industrial manufacturing processes.
For the development of this more efficient, faster and environmentally friendly vaccine production process, the research team is awarded the Fraunhofer Prize "Technology for People and their Environment" 2021.
This explanatory video shows how the inactivation of viruses and bacteria by low-energy electron radiation works.
The FLAVICURE project aims to develop the first broad-spectrum antiviral for treatment of infections caused by the flaviviruses West Nile virus and Zika virus. These flaviviruses are transmitted to mammals and humans by mosquitoes and cause serious diseases. A spread as a result of global warming is becoming apparent, since both the distribution of heat-loving vectors such as the Asian tiger mosquito and the development of the pathogens in the vector are temperature-dependent. Furthermore, West Nile virus is also transmitted by mosquitoes native to central and northern Europe. So far, there are no treatment options and the only preventive strategy is protection against mosquito bites.
The FLAVICURE project is led by Protinhi Therapeutics from Nijmegen, Netherlands. Besides Chimera Biotec GmbH, the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology IZI is involved as a project partner. The Vaccine Technologies and the Preclinical Validation units carry out, among other things, the preclinical efficacy studies of the anitviral lead substances. Based on efficacy and safety, the most promising candidate is then selected and prepared for clinical testing in GLP development studies.
The project is funded by the Eurostars programme, an open-topic funding programme for small and medium-sized companies that carry out joint research and development projects with partners in other member states within the framework of the European research initiative EUREKA (www.eurostars-eureka.eu).
Global warming and increasing globalization and are constantly adding new dimensions to the problems surrounding insect-borne viral infections. The flavivirus genus comprises a number of viruses which are predominantly transmitted by arthropods (ticks and mosquitoes) via birds and mammals. Many of these viruses are harmful to animals and humans, causing diseases such as various forms of encephalitis (including TBE), yellow fever, dengue fever and West Nile fever. The fact that, on a molecular level, the viruses and their subtypes are extremely similar in part makes a differential diagnosis difficult, despite this being an essential prerequisite for targeted therapy. As part of the project, a system is to be developed that will enable serological differentiation between infections caused by the closely related dengue and Zika viruses. The project builds upon Multiplex-based methods for diagnosing vector-borne viral infections. Solutions are to be integrated into the test that will enable the infecting serotype to be accurately identified in the case of dengue viruses. To this end, recombinant antigens will be developed at Fraunhofer IZI which will subsequently be integrated into existing diagnostic procedures, significantly improving specificity.
This project is co-financed by tax revenues on the basis of the budget approved by members of the Saxon state parliament.