Innovation offers hope of relief

Development of a therapeutic vaccine against genital herpes simplex virus 2 infection

Innovation offers hope of relief

There are two variants of the herpes simplex virus. HSV 1 causes oral herpes, which is very common and contracted during childhood. The genital variant, HSV 2, causes symptoms in the form of painful blisters and sores on and around the genitals. In at least 20 per cent of those affected, the virus is activated several times a month.

Many failures

“The two viruses have a 50 per cent genetic similarity. And when looking at the virus coat proteins, nine out of ten are of the same type”, says Jan-Åke Liljeqvist.

All attempts to produce a vaccine so far have been based on the nine proteins which the viruses have in common. All attempts have failed.

“We’ve produced a type-specific vaccine, which is based on the tenth protein, called gG-2. I have worked with this protein since 1995 and wrote my doctoral thesis on it”, says Jan-Åke Liljeqvist.

Patent-pending method

Once you have contracted the virus, you can never get rid of it. That team is therefore working on a therapeutic vaccine that both relieves the symptoms and reduces its contagiousness.

“Our goal is to achieve a 75 per cent decrease in contagiousness. We have seen very good results in mice and intend to proceed with obtaining approval to start clinical trials.”

A dozen or so vaccine projects – all based on the common type proteins – have been discontinued over the years. One of these vaccines achieved a 55 per cent reduction in symptoms and contagiousness in the beginning, but after one year the effect was gone.

“Our solution is better because we use a type-specific protein. The protein is very difficult to produce, but we have succeeded and the method is currently patent-pending”, says Jan-Åke Liljeqvist.

Capital needed

The team is now seeking capital to proceed.

“By working in a way which no one has thought of before, that is, to use what separates the virus types rather than what unites them, I would argue that we have a unique concept with very good prospects.”

The support from Swelife has been invaluable, says Jan-Åke Liljeqvist:

“When Swelife stepped in, the Västra Götaland region contributed an equal amount. We have also benefited greatly from Swelife’s hands-on coaching.”

Updated: 20 October 2017

Text: Jörgen Olsson