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2023-11-07| R&D

International Scientists Launch Human Trials for Strep A Vaccine

by Sinead Huang
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In a significant stride toward combating the deadly Group A Streptococcus bacteria, commonly known as Strep A, an international collaboration of scientists from the University of Alberta in Canada and Griffith University in Australia has initiated the first phase of human clinical trials for a potential Strep A vaccine. This development offers a ray of hope in the battle against a pathogen responsible for claiming more than 500,000 lives annually, particularly affecting vulnerable populations such as children and marginalized communities.

Related article: Pfizer Racks Up Infant Indication for Pneumococcal Vaccine

The Vaccine Development Breakthrough

Griffith University researchers, under the lead of Professor Michael F. Good from Griffith’s Institute for Glycomics, have pioneered a groundbreaking approach to Strep A vaccine development. Previous research efforts were hampered by the pathogen’s enormous diversity, but this new vaccine design targets specific key epitopes present in every Strep A strain. 

By presenting these crucial components to the immune system, researchers hope to bolster the body’s ability to fight off even the most virulent Strep A strains. This innovative strategy has the potential to unlock a successful vaccine, offering protection against multiple Strep A strains, a feat previously considered challenging due to the pathogen’s variability.

International Collaboration and Funding Support

The collaborative effort began when Distinguished Professor Lorne Tyrrell and Nobel laureate Sir Michael Houghton from the Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute recognized the potential in Griffith University’s Strep A vaccine program. Griffith University’s vaccine, formulated by combining two universal molecules found in all Strep A strains, attracted significant interest due to its innovative approach. The University of Alberta’s state-of-the-art facilities and expertise provided an ideal platform for the vaccine’s clinical trials.

The Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute took a crucial step by funding the initial phase of clinical trials, with Griffith University retaining the intellectual property rights. Lawrence Richer, the center director of the Northern Alberta Clinical Trials and Research Centre, highlighted the University of Alberta’s commitment to providing a safe and innovative environment for these critical trials. The institution’s dedication to constant innovation and support for researchers significantly facilitated the translation of laboratory discoveries into human trials.

Promising Prospects and Future Trials

The Phase 1 clinical trial, expected to involve 10 to 20 patients, aims to establish the vaccine’s safety and efficacy. If successful, the Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute plans to support Phase 2 trials, encompassing a larger patient cohort. This progression offers hope for the development of a groundbreaking vaccine that could prevent a spectrum of Strep A-related diseases, including rheumatic fever, necrotizing fasciitis, and neurological disorders like Sydenham chorea.

The launch of human trials for the Strep A vaccine signifies a pivotal moment in the quest to save lives and enhance global health. By targeting the Achilles heel of the Strep A pathogen, scientists have embarked on a journey that holds immense promise for preventing severe diseases and complications, as well as reducing fatalities, particularly in vulnerable populations.

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