Harvey M. Friedman, MD Professor of Medicine/Infectious Diseases University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA 19104-6073 

Penn Researchers Developing Vaccine To Prevent Genital Herpes Infection

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Harvey M. Friedman, MD Professor of Medicine/Infectious Diseases University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA 19104-6073 

Prof. Friedman

Harvey M. Friedman, MD
Professor of Medicine/Infectious Diseases
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6073 

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

Response:  Mice and guinea pigs are the animal models used to evaluate candidate vaccines for preventing genital herpes. My lab has been working on such a vaccine.

Our candidate vaccine contains 3 immunogens. One immunogen is a protein on the virus that is required for the virus to enter cells (viruses need to enter cells to replicate). The other two immunogens are proteins on the virus that help the virus escape immune attack.

Our intent is to produce antibodies to these 3 proteins by immunization and that the antibodies will bind to the proteins on the virus and block the protein functions. The virus then will not be able to enter cells and will not be able to use its evasion strategies to avoid the immune responses generated by the vaccine. Our vaccine aimed at preventing immune evasion is novel as a component of a genital herpes vaccine. 

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

Response:  Our results in mice and guinea pigs were superb and give us hope that the vaccine will be effective in humans. However, animal models have mislead researchers in the past. We will not know if we are on the right path until we do human trials.

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

Response: We are in discussions with a biotechnology company to support trials in humans. The first trial will be a phase 1 study in 50-100 subjects that evaluates safety and immune responses in humans. If phase 1 studies look promising, the next step is a much larger study involving 2-5 thousand people split into 2 groups – one group will get the vaccine while the other gets a placebo. The goal will be to evaluate whether the vaccine is effective in preventing genital herpes.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: We are hopeful that this vaccine will be effective preventing genital herpes. We expect the target population will be adolescents, much like the human papilloma virus vaccine to prevent cervical cancer and genital warts. The studies required to assess vaccine safety and effectiveness will take at least 5 years.

The vaccine is intended as a prevention vaccine for genital herpes. We are also working on a vaccine for treatment of people already infected, but those studies are not as advanced.

Disclosures: The University of Pennsylvania holds patents on the genital herpes vaccine we developed. As inventors, Drs. Friedman, Weissman and Awasthi may benefit financially if the vaccine is effective in humans.


Sita Awasthi, Lauren M. Hook, Norbert Pardi, Fushan Wang, Arpita Myles, Michael P. Cancro, Gary H. Cohen, Drew Weissman and Harvey M. Friedman. Nucleoside-modified mRNA encoding HSV-2 glycoproteins C, D, and E prevents clinical and subclinical genital herpes. Science Immunology, 2019 DOI: 10.1126/sciimmunol.aaw7083



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Last Updated on September 23, 2019 by Marie Benz MD FAAD