Can bacterial viruses be engineered to protect against human viral infections like HIV?

Raised of $3,000 Goal
Funded on 1/01/15
Successfully Funded
  • $3,000
  • 100%
  • Funded
    on 1/01/15

About This Project

Bacteriophages (phages) are bacterial viruses that are very safe to humans, and can be manipulated both on the genetic and physical levels. Our lab specializes in the engineering of phage to treat human diseases. We have made a phage that can target key immune cells in the body (dendritic cells) to deliver DNA that encodes a safe vaccine that can stimulate powerful immunity against Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the causative agent of AIDS.

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What is the context of this research?

Human acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is caused by the Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), a leading global infectious killer that has claimed more than 25 million lives and there is no cure. As such, prophylactic and therapeutic strategies aimed at prevention and/or cure promise the greatest utility and global accessibility.

Our research offers a safe and novel vaccination approach with the aim to maximize vaccine effectiveness and accessibility by targeting genes encoding important HIV proteins to human immune cells, using our engineered phage system. Bacteriophages can serve as targeted gene delivery vehicles. The resultant phage forms a one-step targeted delivery system that promotes antigen presentation to stimulate long-lasting antibody and cellular responses against HIV.

What is the significance of this project?

There is no existing cure for HIV, and while treatment strategies to mitigate disease progression have improved dramatically, these are very expensive inaccessible to global populations that comprise the greatest burden of illness. As such, prevention strategies offer the greatest utility and global accessibility.

Bacteriophage-mediated DNA delivery systems are completely safe since they are incapable of infection or propagation in mammalian hosts. Phage-based vectors also offer ease of large-scale production, physical and thermal stability, the ability to be modified for different delivery options, and suitability as natural stimulators of immunity. As such, phages can serve as the ideal therapeutic vehicles for world wide access to vaccines that would otherwise not be possible.

What are the goals of the project?

The goal of this project is to provide proof of principle experimentation for the potential of a bacteriophage to serve as a one-step vaccine delivery system against HIV infection. This proposal represents the construction and characterization stage of an ongoing project to develop a new HIV therapeutic vaccine.

More specifically, we aim to:

1) Complete engineering of the HIV-phage vaccine that possesses HIV-genes for delivery to human cells and motifs on the phage capsid head (using our specialized system) to target them specifically to human dendritic (immune) cells.

2) Assay the ability of the HIV-phage vaccine to specifically target human dendritic cells.

3) Assay the ability of HIV-phage vaccine to protect mouse models against HIV infection.


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The funding requested here will cover the first 6 months of material needed to further this research in my lab. This initial construction component of the project is expected to take roughly 12 months, estimated at ~$6,000, but the first 6 months will focus on initial proof of principle and determine the direction of the subsequent 6 month research segment.

Meet the Team

Roderick Slavcev
Roderick Slavcev

Team Bio

Roderick Slavcev specializes in bacteriophage (phage) and molecular biology. He completed his post-doctoral fellowship at the Department of Medical Genetics and Microbiology at the University of Toronto in bacteriophage P1 plasmid partition and chromosomal segregation.

His current research group comprises Mediphage Bioceuticals (MB) and encompasses phage-based solutions with the ultimate aim of bringing new treatments to the global environment, especially less developed countries.

MB research projects focus on the exploitation of bacteriophages and this rich genetic reservoir in the design and construction of synthetic biological production platforms. MB exploits coliphages and phage-encoded genes and genetic elements to design and construct vectors for the development of novel vaccines, targeted gene therapy systems, and the identification and application of novel phage genomic anti-bacterial genes to treat and dispose of the clinical culprits of global bacterial infection.

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  • 100%Funded
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