Future HCV Medication and Vaccine from Japan
Toray develops Hepatitis C vaccine
28 August 2007
The Tokyo-headquartered Toray Industries, Inc, has announced that it has successfully confirmed for the first time in the world that hepatitis C virus (HCV) particles produced using a novel HCV culture system inactivated have the potential for practical use as an HCV vaccine in experiments using mice.
The culture system was established through the company’s joint research on the development of an HCV vaccine with the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID) at Shinjuku-ku, in Tokyo and the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute for Neuroscience (TMIN), Tokyo Metropolitan Organization for Medical Research (Fuchu, Tokyo).
Hepatitis C is a refractory viral infection of the liver. It occurs when HCV infects hepatocytes, and can lead to chronic hepatitis, to hepatic cirrhosis, and eventually to hepatocellular carcinoma. According to a WHO survey, it is estimated that 170 million people worldwide were carriers of HCV in 1999 with reportedly 3 to 4 million people being newly infected with HCV every year. Although a combination therapy of interferon and an antiviral drug, ribavirin, is currently used to treat hepatitis C, the development of new vaccines is urgently required to prevent the spread of HCV infection and eradicate the virus.
Vaccines to prevent infection with viruses occasionally contain component protein, part of the viruses, but whole forms of the attenuated viruses are often used successfully in vaccines such as influenza vaccines and polio (poliomyelitis) vaccines. For HCV, however, the inability to grow the virus under in vitro culture conditions has made it difficult to develop a vaccine.
Since its success in the in vitro cultivation of HCV for the first time in the world in 2005 jointly with TMIN, Toray has been seeking the potential of HCV particlest for use as an HCV vaccine in collaboration with NIID. Based on the research it has conducted, the company has successfully increased the efficiency of HCV production by 10,000 times through the research by preparing and using a human liver cell line which produces more HCV particles than conventional cells producing HCV particles.
Moreover, the company confirmed that the HCV infection of cultured human hepatocytes was suppressed by the serum which was obtained from the mice injected with inactivated HCV particles.
Based on the confirmation of the possibility of using these inactivated HCV particles as a HCV vaccine, the company will continue to work with NIID for further research and development to optimize the HCV particles for a vaccine and establish a culture method appropriate for industrial production.
The HCV vaccine is expected to not only become a new prophylactic drug to prevent new HCV infection, but also serve as a therapeutic drug for HCV-infected people. The company hopes that this HCV vaccine will be very good news for millions of patients suffering from hepatitis C worldwide.
Under its corporate slogan “Innovation by Chemistry”, Toray is engaged in the expansion of its advanced materials with a focus on the life science field. The company aims for further expansion of its life science business positioned as one of “Strategically Developing Businesses,” by promoting innovation of research and development employing its own advanced technologies.
Toray Industries, Inc. is going ahead with this research with the support of the Japan Health Sciences Foundation (Project for the fiscal years 2004 to 2006, “Establishment of hepatitis C virus infection and replication systems to develop effective anti-viral strategies”) and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (Project for the fiscal years 2004 to 2006, “Development of vaccines using hepatitis C virus cell lines which allow infection, replication, and particle formation in cultured cells”).