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Antibodies for new rotavirus vaccines

CSIRO has been contracted by PATH (Program for Appropriate Technology in Health) to produce antibodies on a large scale that will aid the development of new, safe, affordable and effective vaccines against rotavirus, a major cause of severe and fatal diarrhoea in young children worldwide.

Rotavirus kills nearly half a million children every year, 85 per cent of whom live in developing countries. The virus is one of the most common causes of hospital and emergency admissions for children under five in Australia.

Since the introduction of two rotavirus vaccines, Rotarix and RotaTeq, to Australia's National Immunisation Program in 2007, hospitalisations of children under five years of age due to rotavirus gastroenteritis have been reduced by over 70 per cent.

PATH, an international not-for-profit organisation, is working to increase access to and effectiveness of existing commercial rotavirus vaccines worldwide, while also working with emerging-country vaccine manufacturers to speed up the development of safe, effective, and more affordable new rotavirus vaccines.

"CSIRO will produce a large quantity of antibodies specific to the strains of rotavirus that are in the vaccines our partners are developing, which will serve as important material for our project," said Dr Georges Thiry, director of PATH's rotavirus vaccine development project.

"New vaccines and suppliers will increase the availability of rotavirus vaccines and increase competition, which in turn will help make all of the rotavirus vaccines on the market more affordable and accessible to the world's most vulnerable children."

Dr George Lovrecz, group leader for CSIRO's protein production and fermentation group, is confident that CSIRO's expertise from the tissue culture and purification teams will deliver excellent results.

"We are proud to be assisting this groundbreaking project that is working to help save the lives of children in the world's poorest countries," he said.

CSIRO will use their recombinant protein production facility in Clayton, Victoria, for the large-scale production of the antibodies.

"This unique, state-of-the-art facility will allow us to produce enough antibodies to supply PATH's partners for the next five years," said Dr Lovrecz.

"We will be producing six antibodies that will be used to test the quality of the rotavirus vaccines being developed."

The antibodies, originally prepared by Dr Carl Kirkwood from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, will be used by PATH's manufacturing partners in China, Brazil, and India and by the United States' National Institutes of Health.


Contact: Merrin Fabre
CSIRO Australia

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