BIOTHREATSDeveloping New Vaccine Against Three Biothreat Pathogens

Published 10 May 2022

Scientists are seeking to develop a multi-pathogen vaccine that will protect against three bacterial biothreat pathogens.

Scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and three other institutions are seeking to develop a multi-pathogen vaccine that will protect against three bacterial biothreat pathogens.

Led by LLNL, the team includes disease experts from the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center (UNMHSC), the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine (UNR Med) and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).

The researchers, who will collaborate under a five-year, $10 million grant from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), are aiming to develop a single vaccine that will protect against tularemia, melioidosis and plague.

LLNL scientists have demonstrated the ability of a subunit vaccine, incorporating different antigens from the Francisella tularensis bacterium into a single particle, to protect against inhalation of high doses of this bacteria. F. tularensis is the bacteria that causes the disease tularemia, also known as rabbit fever.

Their collaborators at UNR Med and USAMRIID have been testing candidate subunit vaccines for melioidosis and plague respectively, and their data suggests that those subunit vaccines could be effective.

Kris Kulp, leader of the Lab’s Biosciences and Biotechnology Division, noted that the three-way vaccine, if successful, will protect against several high-priority pathogens in a single dose, greatly facilitating the defense of U.S. troops against biothreats.

“Not only will a simplified immunization regime be cost-effective, it also will enable warfighters to be fully vaccinated more quickly. This project builds on LLNL expertise using nanoparticle technology to deliver vaccines against single pathogens and takes them to the next step by adding antigens that will protect against multiple pathogens simultaneously,” Kulp said.

LLNL biologist Amy Rasley, who is co-principal investigator on the project with fellow Lab biologist Nick Fischer, calls the concept of a multi-pathogen vaccine that can protect against several biothreat pathogens at once “game-changing.”