Novel Vaccine Platforms For Influenza

Existing commercial influenza vaccines have major drawbacks. We aim to develop the next generation influenza vaccines to overcome these limitations to confront annual seasonal outbreaks of influenza as well as influenza pandemics. Our vaccines are designed to induce long-lasting, potent and broadly reactive immune responses against both human and animal influenza viruses. With the findings generated from this program and the novel immune correlates identified from the Healthy Human Global Project (HHGP) project developed by C2i, we will select and generate GMP seed lots for the most promising vaccine candidate.

KEY PROJECTS

  1. Development of vaccinia virus-vectored, IL-15 adjuvanted, universal influenza vaccines mediating T-cell based broad cross subtype protection;
     

  2. Development of vaccinia virus-vectored, IL-15 adjuvanted, universal influenza vaccines expressing headless HA eliciting stalk binding antibodies mediating broad cross subtype protection;
     

  3. Development of novel platforms for live-attenuated vaccine development;
     

  4. Development of neuraminidase (NA) virus-like particles (VLPs) to complement existing vaccines which largely elicit antibody to the virus haemagglutinin (HA). 

The program will initially develop these four different strategies which have arisen from our previous basic research. By year 3, we will make a choice to select the two most promising candidate vaccines to take them through relevant advanced experimental animal models (ferrets) and preclinical studies. By year 5, we will have identified one vaccine candidate of choice to be developed for GMP production and human phase 1 clinical trial in the next phase of the program.

DELIVRABLES

  1. Pre-clinical development of four different vaccine candidates;
     

  2. Characterize these candidates using in vitro and in vivo models (e.g. mice and ferrets) and determine the breath and duration of protection elicited by these vaccine candidates;
     

  3. Identify one promising vaccine candidate for phase 1 clinical trial studies by end of year 5;
     

  4. Creation of technology-based startups for commercialization and translation.

KEY RESEARCH STAFF IN THE TEAM

We have a multidisciplinary team in this program with a proven track record of previous collaboration who have contributed to the initial work (already published with some patents) on these novel vaccine strategies. 

 

Malik Peiris and Leo LM Poon (HKU) are molecular virologist who has extensive experience in influenza virology and “universal influenza vaccine” development. 

 

Sophie A Valkenburg (HKU-PRP) is an immunologist who studies influenza virus-induced immune responses in mice/humans. 

 

John M Nicholls (HKU) is a pathologist who studies influenza virus-induced pathological changes in animals/humans. 

 

Hui-Ling Yen (HKU) is a virologist expert in using animal models (e.g. mouse and ferret) to study influenza virus pathogenicity and transmission. 

 

Liyanage P Perera (NIH, USA) is a translational research scientist and his research focuses on applying vaccinia virus-based vector approach to treat cancer and infectious diseases. He also has experience in human clinical trials.

 

The team holds multiple relevant patents. The experimental animal studies needed will be carried out at the world-class HKU Bio-safety level three facility.

THE TEAM

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Leo Poon

Principal Investigator 

Professor Leo Poon received his doctoral training in Sir William Dunn School of Pathology in University of Oxford (1996-1999). After his graduation, he returned to Hong Kong and worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the Chinese University of Hong Kong (1999-2001). He joined the University of Hong Kong as a Research Assistant Professor in 2001. He currently serves as a Professor in the School of Public Health, HKU.

Professor Poon involves in influenza research for over 20 years. He studied the replication and transmission of this virus. He developed several molecular tests for emerging avian influenza viruses (e.g. H5N1, pandemic H1N1/2009 and H7N9). In 2009, he played an active role in the H1N1 pandemic and identified the first reassortant of pandemic H1N1/2009 virus in pigs. Currently, he focuses on researching the molecular biology and vaccinology of influenza virus.

 

In 2003, Professor Poon involved in the discovery of a novel coronavirus as the aetiological cause of SARS. He is one of the firsts who decoded the first SARS coronavirus sequence. These findings allowed him to develop several useful molecular tests for the diagnosis of SARS. The identification of SARS coronavirus in humans and animals also prompted him to hunt for novel viruses in wildlife and this leaded to the discovery of the first and many others coronaviruses in bats. He currently also actively involves in studies related to MERS and SARS-CoV-2.

Publications 
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