Computer scientist engineers tame type of live vax

A computer scientist at the University of Miami has collaborated with scientists at Stony Brook University to design new and better vaccines that can knock out a virus while laying to rest some of the fears often associated with live vaccines.

Up to now, developers creating live vaccines have relied on a simple approach: Weaken a virus to the point where it is no longer a threat but spurs the immune system to guard against any future attacks of the wild virus. But fears that the weakened live virus can regain virulence have limited their application.

Computer scientist Dimitris Papamichail developed a new method called Synthetic Attenuated Virus Engineering. Working with the Stony Brook team, the group engineered a synthetic genome of the vaccine using computer algorithms to systematically weaken it by changing its genetic code in a multitude of places. The genetic alterations make it virtually impossible for the virus to regain virulence, triggering symptoms, while speeding the process of developing vaccines that can fight the wild-type strains that threat populations.

"Our approach is not only useful for influenza; it is also applicable to a wide range of viruses," says Papamichail. "The probability of all the changes reverting themselves to produce a virulent strain is extremely unlikely."

- here's the release from Science Daily