We are immensely proud of the fact that Heyford Park based ConserV Bioscience has been very much in the news recently for developing a suite of life-changing vaccines
ConserV specialises in the design of vaccines against conserved protein regions of viruses. These regions do not evolve over time and remain broadly the same across different strains. Conserved regions typically reside in internal proteins and those serving important functional roles. Their internal location tends to protect them from immunological pressure, and their functional importance also makes them less likely to be subject to changes that could lead to loss of function which could impact virus viability and infectivity.
In this way ConserV can develop vaccines which can provide long-lasting protection against current and emergent pandemic virus strains.
An article in New Scientist describes how they have designed a vaccine to protect against a broad range of mosquito-borne diseases. The vaccine, AGS-v PLUS, changes the way our immune system responds to the saliva of the mosquito creating a hostile environment for any pathogen found in the saliva. Female mosquitoes feed on blood after mating to get enough protein to lay fertile eggs, and as they feed on blood, they spit saliva too. Our natural immune reaction to mosquito saliva helps pathogens evade the immune attack. By changing this response, the chances of the pathogen succeeding in evading the immune attack are reduced. The immune response to the saliva ingested by the mosquito during feeding also affects her breeding cycle, helping to control the mosquito population. They believe this technology may be able to reduce many mosquito-borne diseases including but not limited to malaria, dengue, yellow fever, Zika, and chikungunya.
A second New Scientist article highlights the fact that, on top of COVID, there continues to be the risk of another deadly flu outbreak. ConserV’s universal vaccine, FLU-v, will not require a change in the formulation every year because it targets conserved regions in internal influenza viral proteins that are less susceptible to change due to playing a more metabolic role rather than structural. The vaccine generates T-cell responses which are the ones that detect infected cells and start a chain of events that leads to the destruction of those infected cells. .
A third New Scientist article talks about the fact that those vaccines that elicit a strong T cell response, as opposed to the more common antibody response, should protect against a very broad range of coronaviruses.
ConserV’s CSO Dr Olga Pleguezuelos explains that immune responses to viral proteins with a high rate of variation are not protective over the long-term as vaccines need to be adapted to cope with the mutations. Also, T-cell responses are needed to generate strong B-cell memory, otherwise the antibody levels wean off within months rather than years. That’s why the current vaccines need continual boosters.
ConserV Bioscience has designed UNICOR-v, a vaccine that aims to create strong T-cell responses and could be used as a stand-alone vaccine or given alongside current Covid-19 vaccines to increase the breadth and duration of the protection. The vaccine targets regions of two proteins in the virus that are conserved not only in Covid-19 and its variants, but in the entire Coronavirus family which includes viruses that infect other mammals and birds with the potential of jumping into humans as it happened with Covid-19 (SARS-cov-2) and MERS and SARS-cov-1 before that.
Olga has many years of experience of creating vaccines. Having done her PhD in immunology, she is continually excited about creating vaccines that can change people’s lives and her varied immunology background has brought valuable insights for the company.
“Who wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to work on an HIV vaccine or a flu vaccine?” she says.
The company is developing a portfolio of vaccines which are at various stages of development, with 3 already having reached clinical trials. Their universal flu vaccine is now ready for phase 3, and their HIV vaccine and mosquito vaccines have completed phase 1.
ConserV Bioscience span out of PepTcell Ltd in 2020 to provide a vehicle to concentrate solely on vaccine development. Heyford Park Innovation Centre was proud to host the parent company from 2005 to 2013 and it has been humbling to play a part in their expansion. It’s probably fair to say that for most of that time vaccines have been the poor relations, but the recent situation has definitely elevated them to star status.
HPIC provides a friendly and flexible working environment for an SME like us. The shared laboratory provides any client with all the necessary equipment to carry out tissue culture, microbiology, and molecular biology work. All equipment is well maintained, and the staff is always willing to help and improve the experience for all clients. We hope to have their continued support as ConserV grows.
To find out more about ConserV Bioscience visit their website