Scientists create world's first synthetic, non-biologic vaccine

March 13, 2018 by Julia Short, Cardiff University
Credit: National Cancer Institute

Researchers from Cardiff University have created the world's first synthetic, non-biologic vaccine.  

The non-biologic influenza , which can be delivered orally, could herald a revolution in vaccine delivery. 

Stable at room temperature, the new type of vaccine, which could be given in pill form, does not require refrigeration – a process that can account for most of the cost of delivery of many current vaccines.

Vaccines that do not require refrigeration can be transported more easily and are more suitable for developing countries where it can be difficult to keep things cool. 

Professor Andrew Sewell, from Cardiff University's School of Medicine, who led the study, said: "There are many benefits to . Not only would they be great news for people who have a fear of needles but they can also be much easier to store and transport, making them far more suitable for use in remote locations where current vaccine delivery systems can be problematic." 

As the first synthetic and stable vaccine,  the new form of preparation was made in a very novel way, by using 'mirror images' of the that make up life.

Standard vaccines usually work by introducing a safe form of a germ, or a harmless part of that germ (often proteins) into our bodies. These foreign proteins stimulate our immune cells which then remember it and launch a stronger attack if they encounter it again. Normal germs or proteins would usually be digested if eaten. The new work shows that stable 'mirror image' forms of parts of such proteins can also induce a protective immune response. These 'mirror image' molecules cannot be digested, opening up the possibility for stable non-biologic vaccines to be supplied in pill form.

Professor Sewell explained: "The carbon molecules that form all proteins on Earth are left-handed molecules,  but they also have a non-biologic, right-handed form. Even though these two forms of a molecule look identical at first glance they are actually mirror images of each other, just like our right and left hands, and cannot be superimposed on each other. The left-handed forms of proteins are easily digested and do not last long in nature. The unnatural, right-handed forms of these molecules are vastly more stable.

"Our demonstration that unnatural molecules, like these mirror image molecules, can be successfully used for vaccination opens up possibilities to explore the use of other unnatural, stable molecular 'drugs' as vaccines in the future."

This new work provides proof-of-concept in a laboratory setting. A lot more research will be required to develop such approaches for the entire population and other diseases. It is likely to take several years before a non-biologic vaccine could be tested in humans.

Divya Shah, from Wellcome's Infection and Immunobiology team, said: "This is a very exciting first proof of concept study that could provide a potential route to make vaccines that are thermostable and be administered orally. This could reduce the cost and increase accessibility across the globe, however much more research is needed to translate the findings into real-world vaccines."

The research is published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Explore further: Scientists design nicotine vaccine that provokes robust immune response

Related Stories

Scientists design nicotine vaccine that provokes robust immune response

January 12, 2015
When a promising nicotine vaccine failed in clinical trials a few years ago, scientists from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) were determined to keep trying to help smokers overcome their addiction.

Researchers develop a vaccine prototype stronger than traditional vaccines

November 28, 2011
Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) researchers have created a vaccine that is more potent than traditional vaccines available today. The glycoconjugate vaccine prototype is 100 times more effective than traditional glycoconjugate ...

A sweet vaccine against pneumonia

March 10, 2017
It may not take much to vaccinate against a particularly dangerous pathogen that causes pneumonia. A molecule consisting of three adjoined sugars is sufficient to protect against infections with highly virulent and antibiotic-resistant ...

New nano coating could preserve vaccines and save millions of lives

July 22, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—The delivery and storage of vaccines poses a big challenge for public health officials in remote locations and the developing world. Most vaccines are stable below or around room-temperature, but they degrade ...

Groundbreaking vaccine research unveiled at AAPS Conference

May 20, 2014
Innovative vaccine research will be unveiled at the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists' (AAPS) National Biotechnology Conference (NBC).

'Dose sparing' flu vaccine could boost productivity and vaccine availability

April 5, 2017
The currently licensed seasonal trivalent influenza vaccines contain 15 micrograms of viral hemagglutinin protein per strain for adults, and up to 60 micrograms for elderly individuals; however, due to recent shortages, reducing ...

Recommended for you

Gradual release of immunotherapy at site of tumor surgery prevents tumors from returning

March 21, 2018
A new study by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute scientists suggests it may be possible to prevent tumors from recurring and to eradicate metastatic growths by implanting a gel containing immunotherapy during surgical removal ...

Cold can activate body's 'good' fat at a cellular level, study finds

March 21, 2018
Lower temperatures can activate the body's 'good' fat formation at a cellular level, a new study led by academics at The University of Nottingham has found.

Immune cells in the retina can spontaneously regenerate

March 21, 2018
Immune cells called microglia can completely repopulate themselves in the retina after being nearly eliminated, according to a new study in mice from scientists at the National Eye Institute (NEI). The cells also re-establish ...

Switch discovered to convert blood vessels to blood stem cells in embryonic development

March 20, 2018
A switch has been discovered that instructs blood vessel cells to become blood stem cells during embryonic development in mice. Using single-cell technology, researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Cambridge and ...

Stem cells treat macular degeneration

March 19, 2018
In July 2015, 86-year-old Douglas Waters developed severe age-related macular degeneration (AMD). He struggled to see things clearly, even when up close.

Don't blame adolescent social behavior on hormones

March 19, 2018
Reproductive hormones that develop during puberty are not responsible for changes in social behavior that occur during adolescence, according to the results of a newly published study by a University at Buffalo researcher.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.