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Clinical trial for new tuberculosis vaccine
Date:9/11/2008

This release is available in German.

Since Monday of this week, the new vaccine "VPM1002" has entered the clinical phase I trial in Neuss, Germany, where it is being tested for safety on voluntary subjects. VPM1002 is based on a vaccine that has been in use since 1921, and has been genetically engineered to prevent infection with tuberculosis bacteria much more effectively than its predecessor.

The scientific basis for this was laid down by the team working with Stefan H.E. Kaufmann, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology. "The BCG tuberculosis vaccine, which was developed by French researchers, is the most frequently administered live vaccine in the world," says Kaufmann. However, BCG (short for the bacterium Bacillus Calmette-Gurind) is now frequently ineffective. The immunologist continues: "BCG has become a blunt weapon. We wanted to use genetic engineering to sharpen it so that, rather than hiding from the human immune system, it would stimulate it as much as possible."

To do this, the researchers inserted a gene into the vaccine bacteria. Leander Grode, who at the time was a member of Stefan H.E. Kaufmann's staff and is today heads a project at Vakzine Projekt Management GmbH (VPM), describes the process: "The vaccine bacteria are taken up by the scavenger cells of the human immune system and end up in their digestion chambers. The genetically engineered modification allows them to escape from the chambers and arm the immune system against the tuberculosis pathogens."

The scientific studies were initially undertaken at the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology. In 2004, the vaccine was licensed to the Hanover-based VPN, which expedited the clinical study. Thus far, the new vaccine has proven to be extremely effective and safe in animal models. "We now need to prove that it has the same positive
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Contact: Prof. Stefan H.E. Kaufmann
kaufmann@mpiib-berlin.mpg.de
49-302-846-0500
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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