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Development of a cost effective Romania-Norway joint plant-based technology platform for production of vaccines against Human Hepatitis viruses B (HBV) and C (HCV)

Development of a cost effective Romania-Norway joint plant-based technology platform for production of vaccines against Human Hepatitis viruses B (HBV) and C (HCV) 2014-2017
Acronym: GREENVAC
Project director: Norica Nichita

Hepatitis B (HBV) and C viruses (HCV) are important human pathogens resulting in more than 500 million people being currently carriers. Sadly, Romania has the highest prevalence of HBV/HCV infections among the EU countries (up to 7% of the population). Chronically infected patients of HBV and HCV are at high risk to develop severe liver diseases, such as fibrosis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).

Hepatitis B (HBV) and C viruses (HCV) are important human pathogens resulting in more than 500 million people being currently carriers. Sadly, Romania has the highest prevalence of HBV/HCV infections among the EU countries (up to 7% of the population). Chronically infected patients of HBV and HCV are at high risk to develop severe liver diseases, such as fibrosis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Current therapies against HBV/HCV, based on replication inhibitors and immune system activators are associated with severe side effects. Moreover, both viruses are prone to development of resistance to antiviral inhibitors. The objective of this project is to contribute to sustainable improvements in health of vulnerable social groups in Romania through bilateral collaboration of Romania and Norway with international partners participation.

The outcomes are:

  • Plant-produced HCV and HBV vaccines.
  • Production of oral HCV and HBV vaccines in lettuce to further reduce the cost of vaccine production.
  • PhD education for capacity building in Romania and the Romania-Norway plant production platform, which will facilitate our future collaboration.

The overall objective of this GreenVac research project is to contribute to sustainable improvements in health of vulnerable social groups in Romania, in accordance with the health-related millennium development goals (MDGs) of the United Nation. It is also highly relevant to the EEA Research Programme between Romania and Norway where health is one of the four prioritized thematic areas.

Our specific objectives for this Romanian -Norwegian bilateral project on: "Developing a cost effective Romania-Norway joint plant-based technology platform for production of oral and intravenous vaccines against Hepatitis viruses HCV and HBV" are:

  • develop a cost-effective and safe plant-based production system for HCV and HBV vaccines via tobacco chloroplast genetic engineering and transient expression systems,
  • determine the functionality of the tobacco chloroplast-derived HCV and HBV vaccines. The cost of downstream processing for plant-made pharmaceuticals and vaccines is usually about 80% of the total production cost.

 

However, edible crops offer unique advantages in significantly reducing these costs. We take thus our experience in tobacco produced vaccine development a key step forward by aiming to:

  • establish an innovative oral vaccine production platform,
  • produce HCV and HBV vaccines for oral administration,
  • establish the immunogenicity of the experimental HBV and HCV vaccines and
  • conduct a socio-economic evaluation of the tobacco and edible crop (lettuce) derived HCV and HBV vaccines.

Capacity building by recruiting a PhD student in Romania and dissemination of our knowledge and project results are also important for the project. In addition to Norway and Romania, the project consortium includes also experienced European scientists from leading institutions in Germany and France. The platform we establish during this project will facilitate our collaboration in the future.

Estimated results

Following outcomes can be expected from this project:

  1. A cost-effective and safe plant-based production system for HCV and HBV vaccines via tobacco chloroplast genetic engineering and transient expression systems is established by Romania and Norway joint efforts with support of all consortium partners.
  2. The plant produced HBV and HCV vaccines are produced and characterized using the platform developed.
  3. HBV and HCV vaccine antigens are characterized.
  4. Functionality of HBV and HCV vaccine antigens derived from tobacco and lettuce is revealed by the designed studies.
  5. Animal trials demonstrate the efficacy of vaccines in injection and oral administration assays.
  6. Technico-economic advantages vs limitations revealed.
  7. PhD education and knowledge dissemination are fulfilled

 

Public Dissemination

Dr. Norica Nichita was invited to Radio Romania Cultural, as a special guest of the show "Science in appropriate words", on November 10, 2016.

"GREENVAC" project was advertised during the Joint Meetings: "8-th National HIV/AIDS Congress" and "3rd Central European HIV Forum", May 5-7, 2016, Sibiu, Romania

 

Reports

2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

 

Conference Presentations

2016

2015

 

Project Meetings

PROJECT PROMOTER - The Instiute of Biochemistry of the Romanian Academy

Project Coordinator Dr. Norica Nichita
Team Member Dr. biochim Lazar
Team Member Dr. Ionut Popescu
Team Member Res. Assist. biochima Petrareanu
Team Member Res. Assist. Olivia Dobrica

PARTNER 1 - The Norwegian Institute for Agricultural & Environmental Research Bioforsk

Team Leader Dr. Jihong Liu Clarke
Team Member Dr. Lisa Paruch
Team Member Dr. Stefanox Xenarios
Team Member Prof. Ralph Bock

PARTNER 2 - The "Cantacuzino" National Institute for Research and Development for Microbiology and Immunology

Team Leader Dr. Crina Stavaru
Team Member Dr. Adrian Onu
Team Member Dr. Iuliana Caras
Team Member Dr. Adina Iancu
Team Member Dr. Adriana Costache
Team Member Ene Vlase (DVM)
Team Member Res. Assist. biochim Tucureanu
Team Member Tech. Assist. Viorica Andras
Team Member Tech. Assist. Daniela Florescu
Team Member Tech. Assist. Doina Preoteasa

PARTNER 3 - The National Institute for Infectious Diseases "Matei Bals"

Team Leader Dr. Dan Otelea
Team Member Dr. Simona Paraschiv
Team Member Dr. Leontina Banica
Team Member Dr. Valeriu Gheorghita
Team Member Tech. Assist. Dana Ioan

Center for Infection and Immunity of Lille

Team Leader Dr. Jean Dubuisson