Vaccines have played a pivotal role in the development of modern medicine. This has included the global eradication of smallpox, and the near elimination of polio. Nonetheless, certain bacteria and viruses remain impervious to vaccine development, and there is a pressing need to develop new strategies for vaccine production and delivery.
Recently, we reported the construction of an entirely new type of protein assembly*, which we call SAGEs for self-assembled peptide cages. These SAGEs comprise thousands of small protein modules, which co-assemble to form particles that resemble viruses, at least in size and shape but not in infectivity.
Our research programme will test if the SAGEs can be used as “scaffolds” for the presentation and delivery of parts of infectious agents such as bacteria and viruses. Our work will begin with experiments in the test tube on cells from the immune system. However, the aim is provoke immune responses in animals and humans to inoculate them against specific diseases. One of our targets is dengue fever for which there is no current vaccine or treatment.
Project lead: Professor Dek Woolfson (peptide design and characterisation)