GO-Bio round 8 – Prof. Michael Hust – Braunschweig University of Technology, Faculty 2 – Life Sciences – Institute for Biochemistry, Biotechnology and Bioinformatics – School of Biotechnology
Beneficiary: Braunschweig University of Technology
Funding: GO-Bio Phase I (01.10.2018 - 30.09.2020, 1.888.831 Euro)
Ticks can carry many fatal diseases, of which the most important in Germany are Lyme disease and early summer meningoencephalitis (ESME). In Germany alone there are an estimated 60,000-200,000 reports of Lyme disease each year. It is estimated that more than 300,000 cases are reported in the USA annually. It is not only Lyme disease and meningoencephalitis that are transmitted by ticks, however. Other illnesses include tularemia/rabbit fever, rocky mountain spotted fever, human granulocytic anaplasmosis and babesioses. As the pathogens and serotypes transmitted are incredibly diverse, it is impractical to have a strategy based on various vaccines each tackling a different tick-borne disease.
It is for that very reason that the GO-Bio team, led by Michael Hust in Braunschweig, are targeting the ticks specifically in their efforts to develop a vaccine. The goal is to create a vaccine suitable for widespread application to fight the main species of tick in Europe and North America. The researchers do not target pathogens, but the ticks themselves, as they carry the disease. They want to prevent the disease from being transmitted immediately. After a person has been bitten by a tick, it can take approximately 24 to 36 hours for the tick to suck blood and transmit any possible disease-carrying pathogens. It is also worth noting here that certain people are resistant to ticks. Thanks to their blood and special phage display technology, researchers have identified a number of immunogenic proteins and peptides in tick saliva. These will now be used to form the vaccine. These molecules will be combined to create an effective anti-tick vaccine.
With their GO-Bio grant, the team will demonstrate proof-of-concept in animal studies. Mice testing will be conducted by their partner Thomas Mather from the University of Rhode Island. The Norden Vaccines GmbH is scheduled to be set-up at the end of the financing stage. The company aims to develop the vaccine for humans. In the long term, it should be possible for the technology to be applied to other vaccines.