2 Nov 2012

AgResearch scientist gets funding for new TB vaccine

2:12 pm on 2 November 2012

An AgResearch scientist has won funding to investigate the development of a new type of vaccine to protect animals and humans against tuberculosis and, potentially, a wide range of other infectious diseases.

Dr Axel Heiser has been awarded aGrand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

It gives him a year to explore the concept of a new vaccination technique that would be more effective and longer lasting than what is available at present.

A vaccine is made by either killing a pathogen, or producing components of pathogen, such as a protein.

Dr Heiser says a Massey University team has developed a method of making bacteria produce "bio-beads" that carry proteins.

"We have used these beads to attach antigens - structures that can be recognised by the immune system - to them that were specific to tuberculosis."

Dr Heiser says the study will take that further by applying the process to the bacteria that cause tuberculosis, which in its bovine form remains a major disease in cattle and other animals, and is on the increase in humans.

He says the bio-bead technique could be applied to a range of other diseases, such as malaria, which are hard to vaccinate against.