UFMG receives 'seed virus' to develop Brazilian vaccine against monkeypox

UFMG receives ‘seed virus’ to develop Brazilian vaccine against monkeypox

Marcelo Morales, from MCTI, and Flávio Fonseca, from CTVacinas, received the biological material that will serve as a basis for testing the vaccine against monkeypox Raphaella Dias | UFMG

A vaccine similar to Jynneos/Imvanex, an immunizer from the Bavarian Nordic A/S company used for the prevention of monkeypox, will soon begin to be produced in Brazil. The development of the immunizer in the country will be made possible based on two vials of the Modified Vaccinia Ankara virus (MVA) sent by the United States. The shipment, which arrived at the UFMG’s CTVacinas on Monday, the 5th, was donated by the National Institute of Health (NIH), an American medical research agency, through a clinical material transfer agreement signed with the Virus Network. Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovations (MCTI).

Professor Flávio da Fonseca, a researcher at CTVacinas at UFMG and a member of the CâmaraPox at the MCTI, explains that the material that arrived in Belo Horizonte is what the researchers call “seed”. “We are receiving a vaccine that was produced with the weakened Vaccinia virus. Due to the genetic similarity of this virus to that of monkeypox, it is able to immunize against the new disease, just as it protected against smallpox in the past. This is what we call cross-protection. “, it says.

With the arrival of the flasks in Brazil, the CTVacinas researchers will begin the work that will make it possible to multiply the immunizing agent. As Brazil has never produced a specific vaccine against this virus, Fonseca informs that the CTVacinas team will carry out tests to define the parameters for its production.

After the UFMG research and technology center establishes these parameters, the manufacture of the immunizing agent will be in charge of Bio-Manguinhos, the immunobiological production unit of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz).

The monkeypox vaccine that will be replicated in the country is intended for adults aged 18 years and over and has a shelf life of up to 60 months when stored at temperatures between -60 to -40°C.

MVA virus vial
MVA virus vial: similarity to monkeypox virusRaphaella Dias | UFMG

Learning from the pandemic
Flávio da Fonseca says that Brazil has abandoned the practice of developing vaccine biotechnology, and the covid-19 pandemic has shown that having this autonomy is important for the country. “The pandemic taught us a very hard lesson on how important it is to have technical autonomy and sovereignty in the production of immunizations. Among the BRICS countries [bloco formado por Brasil, Índia, Rússia, China e África do Sul]only Brazil and South Africa did not produce vaccines against covid-19, and this contributed to the high number of deaths recorded here”, he argues.

In the specific case of the smallpox vaccine, Fonseca recalls that it was produced in Brazil until the mid-1970s. At that time, the immunizing agent had many side effects. This problem began to be minimized when smallpox vaccines were produced using more attenuated viruses that do not multiply in the human body, but are capable of generating an immune response.

“We had to bring the batch of seeds from the United States, as we didn’t have any smallpox vaccine stock in the country so that we could replicate it. monkeypox. This strategy meets our interest in becoming autonomous and self-sufficient. Bio-Manguinhos is today the largest producer of yellow fever vaccine in the world, so we need to be independent in the production of vaccines for other diseases as well”, defends the teacher.

With the arrival of the batch of seeds, the forecast is that Brazil will be able to massively manufacture the vaccine in a maximum of six months. According to a recommendation from the World Health Organization (WHO), production may initially be intended for risk groups, such as health professionals who deal with people contaminated by the virus.

Modify to mitigate
Smallpox was eradicated in the 1970s through vaccine action coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO). At the time, MVA, which is a kind of ‘cousin’ of the smallpox virus, was one of the agents used in immunization programs. Few laboratories in the world have this virus, the basis for third-generation vaccines.

The MVA has been modified in Germany at least 500 times by ‘passing’ in chicken eggs so that it is completely attenuated. It suffered mutations that adapted it to the avian host, but also left it unable to replicate productively in humans and other mammals. These changes make it possible that, when applied to the human body in the form of a vaccine, the virus induces an immune response without replicating. It is the same principle of the vaccine that is based on the adenovirus, used in immunizations against covid-19.

TV UFMG followed the arrival of the biological material at CTVacinas and spoke with Professor Flávio da Fonseca and with the Secretary of Research and Scientific Training at MCTI, Marcelo Morales. Watch the report:

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