Nanotech MERS vaccine has success in laboratory

By Wu Liang-yi and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Sat, May 18, 2019 - Page 2

Academia Sinica’s Institute of Biomedical Sciences on Tuesday said that its scientists have developed a nanotechnology-based vaccine that inoculated lab mice against Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

The MERS-related coronavirus kills 40 percent of the people it infects and developing a vaccine against it is deemed a high priority by the WHO, the institute said.

The virus was discovered in 2015, when it leaped species from camels to people, it said.

Using concepts similar to the development of an Ebola vaccine, the research team designed a nanoparticle to imitate the shape of the coronavirus as a substitute for deactivated viruses that vaccines typically use, institute associate research fellow Jack Hu (胡哲銘) said.

Nanotechnology was used in lieu of conventional vaccine manufacturing methodologies, because MERS is too lethal for most labs to handle and working on the actual virus would have had a disturbing resemblance to research for biological warfare, Hu said.

The team found that T cells in mice were stimulated by the nanoparticles, while those that received the inoculation had a 100 percent survival rate, he said.

The team is to continue its collaboration with international partners to go forward with primate trials, with clinical trials and approval for market release estimated to take three and seven years respectively, the researchers said.

The technology could also be used to research vaccines for flu and Zika viruses, as well as cancer, they said.