- 2017年12月29日10:43 来源：互联网
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Flu vaccines and synthetic biology——Going viral
A speedy way to make a vaccine
IF A new and deadly strain of influenza were to arise, putting together a vaccine against it in the least possible time would be a priority.
To test how quickly that could be done a group of researchers have just had a race with themselves.
They have not quite matched the show sometimes given by workers at the Venetian arsenal, who would assemble a galley in a single day in order to overawe visiting foreign dignitaries.
But Philip Dormitzer, Craig Venter and their colleagues did create the crucial component of a flu jab in four days and four hours.
Dr Dormitzer, who works for Novartis, a drug company, and Dr Venter, eponymous founder of the J. Craig Venter Institute in San Diego, reported their record-breaking attempt in this week's Science Translational Medicine.
It began with the transmission to them from America's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority of the sequence data for the haemagglutinin and neuraminidase genes of a unknown flu virus.
The team took this information and used it to make DNA that contained both the gene sequences themselves and the genetic apparatus needed to let a cell read those sequences and produce proteins from them.
They then put these pieces of synthetic DNA—which were, in effect, tiny chromosomes—into cell cultures derived from dog kidneys, which have been found particularly effective for this kind of work.
The dog-kidney cells duly churned out viruses, suitable for seeding the process of vaccine manufacture, that contained the proteins in question.
Since these two proteins are the variable elements that stop new strains of flu being recognised by the immune systems of people who have had influenza in the past, this is an important step forward.
Experiments on ferrets showed that these seed viruses stimulated the animals' immune systems in the desired way, producing protective immunity.
Having a seed is not the same thing as being able to make a vaccine in large quantities.
But it is an important first step.
Novartis, in collaboration with the commercial arm of Dr Venter's enterprise, Synthetic Genomics, hopes to create a bank of seed viruses using this method.
That will speed matters up even more.
But the fact that something not actually in the bank could be knocked up at short notice if necessary is comforting.