Profectus BioSciences, Inc. has received a grant for $4.6 million in support of the Department of Defense’s Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense (JPEO-CBD) Medical Countermeasure Systems–Joint Vaccine Acquisition Program (MCS-JVAP).
The award will support the accelerated preclinical development and testing of a vaccine to protect soldiers against aerosol exposure with the Western, Eastern, and Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis viruses, considered to be priority select agent biothreats.
Preliminary studies carried out by Profectus, in collaboration with investigators at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB), demonstrated that vaccines based on the Profectus VesiculoVax platform provide rapid and durable protection of animals against lethal Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) and Eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV) disease.
The vaccines used in these studies were based on recombinant Isfahan virus (rISFV) that had been engineered to express surface structures of VEEV and EEEV. ISFV is a vesiculovirus related to, but serologically and genetically distinct from, the prototype vesicular stomatitis virus vector used in the Profectus Ebola vaccine currently in development.
“Our multi-vector vaccine platform is well suited to address the multiple vaccine needs of MCS,” said John Eldridge, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer of Profectus.
These three equine encephalitis viruses are transmitted by mosquitoes and can cause disease characterized by encephalitis in horses and humans. Birds can carry these viruses without developing disease and serve as the viral reservoir. WEEV is found in the U.S. west of the Mississippi River, as far south as Argentina, and as far north as western Canada. EEEV is predominantly found in the eastern U.S. and Canada, while VEEV is most frequently isolated in South and Central America and, less frequently, in Mexico and the southwestern U.S.
In humans, infection with EEEV carries a mortality rate as high as 65%, while infection with WEEV and VEEV can cause severe disease but is rarely fatal.