Cutting-edge gene editing techniques for increased vaccine yields

April 09, 2018
Livestock Vaccine Innovation Fund

An FDA laboratory worker injects an influenza virus into an egg

Photo: US Food and Drug Administration

Virus production for vaccines remains a challenging issue, particularly with slow-growing viruses such as avian influenza. Many vaccines are produced in embryonated hen’s eggs or continuous avian cell lines. However, there is a bottleneck in manufacturing a large quantity of vaccines because the immune response of the host cell can inhibit the replication of vaccine viruses.

What are IFITM genes and why are they important?

Type I interferons are proteins that protect cells from virus infection by triggering specific anti-viral genes. Among these are the interferon-inducible transmembrane (IFITM) genes. Experiments show that reducing the level of IFITMs in chicken cells infected with influenza leads to increased levels of the virus in the cell. This suggests that IFITM genes play an important role in the control of viral infections and may be valuable for vaccine production.

Developing an innovative solution

Using gene editing techniques, researchers will generate cells that lack IFITM genes. This approach will allow more viruses to be produced in the cells, which in turn will result in more vaccines being manufactured in a shorter time.

Expected results

The expected outcome of this project is a new vaccine production method that has the potential to reduce vaccine manufacturing costs and time for a wide range of livestock viral diseases. This will enhance affordability and availability for livestock smallholders in low and middle income countries.

Lead institutions

This project is a collaboration between the Pirbright Institute and Horizon Discovery, both based in the United Kingdom. 

  • Duration: 30 months
  • Budget: CA$1.5 million