September 8, 2008
Taiwan's researchers are developing DNA-based vaccines for various strains of the H5N1 virus.
Researchers from the Academia Sinica, Taiwan's leading academic body, have also discovered that once new virus strains are found, the strains' genetic information can be incorporated into the vaccine database to produce new vaccines that can induce immunity against the new strains.
The team, led by David Ho of the Rockefeller University and Wong Chi-Huey of Academia Sinica's Genomics Research Centre, started its research two years ago.
The key is hemagglutinin, a type of glycoprotein molecule that can be found on the surface of all H5N1 viruses and plays a vital role in the viral infection process. After analysing hundreds of hemagglutinin samples, an identical gene sequence were found on all specimens. The sequence was later genetically engineered to produce vaccines.
During experiments, lab mice that have been inoculated were found to develop immunity of various H5N1 strains, including the strains found in Vietnam, Indonesia, Turkey, and southern China.
According to the Genomics Research Centre, all mice that were exposed to the other three strains survived while survival rates for those exposed to the Indonesian strain was 80 percent.
After further testing is completed by the end of 2008, the vaccine will be submitted to the US Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration.