Vaccines represent one of the best ways to control infectious diseases. Virus-like particles (VLPs) are biochemically and morphologically similar to parental virus yet cannot replicate and are therefore safe enough to be used as vaccines. An example of a VLP is the human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.
In this project, we are experimenting with VLP vaccines that incorporate adjuvants. Adjuvants are used to help induce a strong immune response thereby magnifying the effect of vaccinating with VLPs. Specifically, we have genetically modified VLPs to express truncated wild-type and mutant variants of retinoic acid-inducible gene 1 (RIG-I). RIG-I activates the immune system and can induce the production of the anti-viral interferon cytokine. These engineered VLPs are currently being tested for their ability to activate immune cells, a critical function of all vaccines. The hope is that the RIG-I containing VLPs will induce a stronger immune response, enhancing the efficacy of the VLP vaccine.
Selected background reading for students