Targeting NK cells to improve HCV vaccine immunogenicity

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infects over 170 million people in the world. Most individuals go on to develop a chronic lifetime infection that is associated with progressive liver disease. While new drugs have recently been developed, they are very expensive and are not a treatment option for developing countries. In addition, there are some patient groups e.g. patients co-infected with HIV-1 and HCV, that may not be as responsive to therapy. Drug resistant variants of the virus may also emerge. For all these reasons, there is an urgent need to develop a vaccine against HCV. While progress has been relatively slow in terms of HCV vaccine development, a group in Oxford University have recently developed and tested a HCV vaccine that gave promising results in clinical trials. Based on this, they have now developed a new generation of HCV vaccines that are currently being tested in healthy volunteers and will shortly be tested in HIV-1 positive patients. We are collaborating with these expert researchers and indeed, one arm of the new vaccine trial is actually taking place in St. James's Hospital.
The work proposed here will study the immune responses of both patients and HIV-1 infected individuals in response to these new vaccines. Our collaborators are studying the later time points of the immune response to vaccine and here, we will study the cells involved in the early immune response to vaccine, in particular Natural Killer (NK) cells. We plan to identify how these cells influence the immune response to vaccine and how we can potentially modulate these cells to improve immunity induced by HCV vaccines - this may be particularly important in HIV-1 patients. This work has the potential to translate into the clinic as an immunomodulation strategy to improve the immune response tothe vaccine.

Award Date
23 October 2015
Award Value
€329,994
Principal Investigator
Professor Clair Gardiner
Host Institution
Trinity College Dublin
Scheme
Health Research Awards