Rational engineering of recombinant picornavirus capsids to produce safe, protective vaccine antigen

Picornaviruses are small RNA viruses, responsible for important human and animal diseases for example polio, some forms of the common cold and foot-and-mouth disease. Safe and effective picornavirus vaccines could in principle be produced from recombinant virus-like particles, which lack the viral genome and so cannot propagate. However the synthesis of stable forms of such particles at scale has proved very difficult. Two key problems have been that a protease required for the proper processing of the polyprotein precursor is toxic for host cells and the empty recombinant particles tend to be physically unstable in comparison to virus particles containing nucleic acid. This is particularly true in the case of Foot-and-Mouth Disease Virus (FMDV). Here we report the production and evaluation of a novel vaccine against FMDV that addresses both of these shortcomings. Importantly, the strategies we have devised to produce improved FMDV vaccines can be directly applied to viruses pathogenic for humans

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