The project aims to investigate the feasibility of using radiation to inactivate viruses for vaccine formulation. The recent Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of vaccines and the need for faster, economically affordable, and safer vaccine development methods. Vaccines prevent an estimated 3 million deaths/year worldwide but a further 1.5 million lives/year could be saved with better vaccines and wider coverage (Wellcome). Ionizing radiation could provide an alternative option with significant benefits compared to current vaccine formulations. The concept relies on using ionizing radiation to inactivate the virus by damaging its RNA material without destroying the key epitopes or its structural integrity (retaining therefore the full breadth of antigens targets). Simulations have confirmed that this could be achieved with an optimum selection of radiation quality and dose. The inactivated virus would then be used in combination with an adjuvant to stimulate the immune system response. The project will assess the efficiency of different radiation modalities in virus inactivation, establish dose-response curves, develop sample radiation vaccines and compare their efficacy against chemical and other conventional vaccine modalities using a range of biological systems. Cost-effectiveness and ease of manufacturing, including access to radiation facilities and transport, will also be addressed.
The project is a collaboration between the University of Surrey (Radiation and Medical Physics Group and Section of Immunology, School of Biosciences and Medicine) and the National Physical Laboratory.