Investigators at Scripps Research Institute are at work on a new vaccination method that would provide "instant immunity" against a range of diseases triggered by bacteria, viruses, toxins as well as cancerous cells. The two-step process, which has been tested in mice, involves injecting antibodies followed by "adapter" molecules that could direct the immune system to attack specific targets.
"The antibodies in our vaccine are designed to circulate inertly until they receive instructions from tailor-made small molecules to become active against a specific target," says Scripps professor Carlos Barbas III. "The advantage of this method is that it opens up the possibility of having antibodies primed and ready to go in the time it takes to receive an injection or swallow a pill."
If successful, the investigators would offer people a radically improved approach to vaccinations, which currently require booster shots to improve immunity over a period of weeks or months.
"Our approach differs from the traditional vaccine approach in the sense that when we design an antibody-adapter compound we know exactly what that compound will react with," Barbas added. "The importance of this is best exemplified with HIV. In current vaccines, many antibodies are generated against HIV, but most are not able to target the active part of the virus."
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