Vaccines are the most effective preventive healthcare intervention ever deployed, and save between 2 and 3 million lives every year worldwide. The Vaccines for Emerging and Endemic Diseases theme will provide a key bridge between researchers at the University of Oxford and Oxfordshire’s NHS teaching hospitals. It will focus on the creation and clinical development of new vaccines against a wide range of infectious diseases, and will also extend the use of leading vaccine technologies into immunotherapy (treatments that boost the immune system to help it fight infectious diseases, chronic diseases and cancer).
The University of Oxford now has one of the largest university-based vaccine centres in the world, with a wide range of vaccine development programmes. Most of the new vaccines which we are developing and testing have been designed in our local research laboratories.
The Theme is headed by Prof Adrian Hill from the Jenner Institute together with Prof Andrew Pollard from the Oxford Vaccine Group. The research programmes of the Theme are closely aligned with the priorities of the Department of Health (DH) and cover four major research areas:
- Vaccines for Emerging Diseases: The World Health Organization (and the DH-supported UK Vaccine Research and Development Network) have identified several high-priority diseases that could be the source of outbreaks or epidemics in the future. These include Zika, MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and Rift Valley Fever. We are designing and developing a range of new vaccines targeting the pathogens (bacteria or viruses) that cause these diseases. We are also working on new vaccines against influenza (flu).
- Vaccines for Major Endemic Infections: Oxford has been developing new vaccines against malaria, HIV and TB. We are now evaluating how effective these vaccines are. Some of the vaccines involve new methods of delivery such as aerosols. We have also been developing our understanding of how typhoid and paratyphoid infection work, and we will use this knowledge to help us undertake trials of new vaccines against these major diseases.
- Childhood Infection Vaccines: We have designed a new vaccine against Group B meningococcal disease (MenB) which has shown itself to be very immunogenic in laboratory studies. We are now carrying out a phase I (first in human) study of this vaccine and should have early data soon. We are also studying whether the licensed MenB vaccines can prevent carriage of the bacteria in 24,000 teenagers and testing how well a booster dose of the vaccine would work in teenagers who were vaccinated in early childhood in some of the first ever trials of the vaccine.We are undertaking research on the burden of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in children and adults to underpin future NHS programmes for the control of RSV, which can cause serious disease in babies and in the elderly, and investigating biomarkers associated with severity or susceptibility to disease. The aim is to inform and support development of new vaccines and monoclonal antibodies to prevent RSV and to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use.
We are testing the hypothesis that the UK immunisation programme could be redesigned with fewer vaccine doses, thereby saving the NHS money.
We also study pertussis (whooping cough) vaccines to investigate the reasons behind the recent resurgence of pertussis, and identify a more durable vaccination strategy.
Our programme on typhoid and paratyphoid tests new vaccines that could reduce the burden of the disease globally and improve the health of travellers. We are also testing a new plague vaccine, which we developed in Oxford, in phase I trials.
We have developed a website, the Vaccine Knowledge Project, to provide information on vaccines to help all users understand the NHS programme better and increase their knowledge about how programmes work.
- Chronic Disease Vaccines: We are extending a trial of a vaccine designed to induce immunity against low to intermediate risk prostate cancer. Alongside this we are developing new vaccines against tumours caused by HPV (human papillomavirus) and chronic hepatitis B (HBV) disease, and evaluating these in phase I and II trials. We will trial a vaccine to target psoriasis, thereby undertaking pioneering studies of the potential of vaccination to control an inflammatory disease.