“Syringe and Vaccine” by NIAID is licensed under CC BY 2.0

New Platform Opens Door To Vaccine Against Multiple Herpes Viruses

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Gary E. Pickard, PhD

Professor of Neuroscience
School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Our research group studies how alphaherpesviruses infect the nervous system. Previously we removed a component of the viral genetic code that the virus needs to invade the nervous system, where it can reside for the life of the infected individual. Importantly, this was accomplished without reducing the ability of the virus to initiate a robust immune response. 

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: This study first showed that the HSV-1 R2 live-attenuated vaccine did not infect the nervous system nor did it produce acute or recurrent disease after vaccination. We next demonstrated that HSV-1 R2 vaccination was highly effective in inducing neutralizing antibodies and reducing the severity of acute and recurrent disease following HSV-2 challenge. The HSV-1 R2 vaccine was also especially effective at reducing recurrent HSV-2 virus shedding, the most common source of HSV transmission. 

MedicalResearch.com: Might this technique allow for development of vaccines against the other herpes strains?

Response: Yes, and this is an important point. Prior attempts at producing herpesvirus vaccines were tailor designed for a single pathogen, and have been hit or miss. The R2 platform can be applied to all human and veterinary alpha herpesviruses such as VZV, HSV-2, BHV-1, EHV-1, FHV-1, and PRV, because the R2 region is fundamental to the neuroinvasive property of these viruses and is evolutionally conserved. We have reported that an R2 engineered porcine alphaherpesvirus effectively protected pigs from virulent virus challenge. We are gearing up to produce additional clinical and veterinary R2 vaccines against this family of viruses. 

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report? 

Response: Our study demonstrated that the HSV-1 R2 vaccine is a highly effective prophylactic vaccine in this pre-clinical model and thus highly encouraging since there are currently no herpes simplex virus vaccines available.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Our study demonstrated effective cross protection; HSV-1 R2 vaccination protected against HSV-2 challenge. We anticipate that an HSV-2 R2 vaccine will be more efficacious in protecting against HSV-2 challenge.

Any disclosures?

Response: Drs. Gary Pickard, Gregory Smith and Ekaterina Heldwein are co-founders of Thyreos, a start-up biotech company that is generating clinical and veterinary alphaherpesvirus vaccines based on the R2 platform. 


David I. Bernstein, Rhonda D. Cardin, Gregory A. Smith, Gary E. Pickard, Patricia J. Sollars, David A. Dixon, Rajamouli Pasula, Fernando J. Bravo. The R2 non-neuroinvasive HSV-1 vaccine affords protection from genital HSV-2 infections in a guinea pig model. npj Vaccines, 2020; 5 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41541-020-00254-8


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Last Updated on November 9, 2020 by Marie Benz MD FAAD