Prof. Jeroen Kortekaas PhD, CSO of BunyaVax, and Paul Wichgers Schreur PhD, COO of the company, share their vision on the future of BunyaVax.
Jeroen explains why it is so important to have novel vaccine platforms available for the control of emerging infectious diseases: Due to globalization, climate change and the fast growing world population, the world will experience a strong increase in the frequency and size of infectious disease outbreaks. In the past decade alone, we have witnessed unprecedented outbreaks of West Nile virus, Chikungunya virus, Ebola and Zika virus among humans and influenza, Bluetongue and Schmallenberg virus among animals. Particularly the Zika virus outbreak among humans and the Schmallenberg virus outbreak among animals have demonstrated how fast previously neglected and assumed to be benign viruses can spread in immunologically naïve populations with severe consequences. Only when we are capable of developing ánd deploying vaccines within weeks to months after pathogen emergence, can these viruses be effectively controlled. For this, we need platform technologies. Importantly, apart from innovations in science, it is essential that also legislation is adapted to allow the emergency use of novel vaccine technologies.
Paul: BunyaVax will revolutionize vaccine development due to a unique combination of features. The technologies are based on negative-strand RNA viruses that maintain foreign genes with exceptional stability. So far, not a single mutation in a foreign gene has been detected upon passaging of the vaccine constructs. Foreign genes can be introduced into the bunyaviral RNAs with exceptional ease, facilitating the rapid response to emerging pathogens. The remarkable efficacy of BunyaVax vaccines is attributed to their tropism for dendritic cells and macrophages, the professional antigen presenting cells of the immune system. Finally, the complete removal of the genome segment encoding the structural glycoproteins and the NSs gene explains the unprecedented safety of the vaccines.