Virus Like Particles VLPs for Therapeutics and Research

Oxford Expression Technologies (OET) is now able to apply its flashBAC™ baculovirus expression system to vaccine production, particularly in the exciting new field of virus like particle (VLP) vaccines. A virus like particle is an assembly of virus structural proteins that mimics the configuration of a real virus, except that it contains no genetic material. If a person is vaccinated with VLPs then an immune response is generated as if the immune system has been presented with a real virus. However as the VLPs do not contain any genetic material they are unable to replicate, and as such are harmless to the person who has been vaccinated. However, that person will now be protected against infection by the real (pathogenic) virus. These characteristics mean that the VLP platform has huge potential for use as an extremely effective anti viral vaccine.

However the production of VLPs is not without its problems. In order to produce a functional VLP that effectively mimics a real virus good yields of multiple virus structural proteins are needed. These must then be correctly assembled into a particle that reproduces the confirmation of the outer shell (capsid) of an infectious virus. The expression system used to produce the particles must be both safe and capable of producing multiple proteins both on a small scale (for testing) and on a larger scale (for vaccine manufacture).

The above requirements mean that VLP production can be a complex and difficult procedure. Unsurprisingly there has recently been considerable interest in the use of the baculovirus expression system for the production of VLP vaccines as it could overcome the above problems. As the FDA has recently licensed a baculovirus manufactured vaccine for use in humans (Cervarix® by GlaxoSmithKline) to protect against HPV this has now made it possible for the baculovirus system to be used more widely for VLP production. There is also significant interest in using the baculovirus system to produce VLPs that can be used to immunize against the influenza virus.

As the world opinion leaders in baculovirus expression technology, OET is very excited about the potential this field offers. The improvements in protein yield and quality offered by the flashBAC™ system, along with its capacity to produce multiple proteins means that it is ideally suited to VLP production. Moreover the scalability of the system and its high throughput compatibility makes VLP manufacture an economic proposition. OET also has expertise in performing the important quality control procedures involved in VLP purification to ensure that the final VLP preparation is pure and free of other unwanted components.

The field of VLP production is a very exciting area, and OET is ideally placed to maximise the potential of the baculovirus expression system for VLP production through our extensive expertise and our flashBAC™ technology. We have an active R&D effort in this field but we are also actively looking for partners with whom we could work. In this way we can develop, manufacture and commercialise a new generation of VLP vaccines, produced using the baculovirus expression system. If you are interested in partnering with OET to produce VLPs please contact us for a discussion of how we could work together.