Clamp2 provides vaccine hope for future pandemics

Dr Noushin Jaberolansar and Dr Andrew Young at lab bench

The University of Queensland is set to take a second-generation molecular clamp vaccine to a proof-of-concept human trial. 

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI) has committed up to AU$8.5 ($5.7) million to support further development of the re-engineered technology for use in the global response to future disease outbreaks.  

Associate Professor Keith Chappell, co-leader of UQ’s Rapid Response Vaccine Pipeline, said pre-clinical testing had shown the ‘Clamp2’ platform was meeting all expectations, producing stabilised antigens and inducing strong neutralising immune responses.

“We have been able to validate the Clamp2 platform in the laboratory and show that it is equivalent to the original platform across multiple virus families including influenza virus, Nipah virus and SARS-CoV-2,” Dr Chappell said. “Importantly, this re-engineered technology does not pose any issue with diagnostic interference as was encountered in 2020.” 

Clamp technology 

The clamp technology works by ‘locking’ viral proteins into a shape that allows for an optimal immune response. This process requires the sequence of the viral protein, which can be determined from its genome and is then coupled with an optimised ‘clamp’ sequence. The synthetic antigen can then be purified and rapidly manufactured into a vaccine. 

The clinical batch of the Clamp2 vaccine will be manufactured at the Queensland node of the National Biologics Facility (NBF) housed within UQ’s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology. 

Safeguarding against future pandemics 

Associate Professor Dan Watterson, who spearheaded the successful Clamp2 redesign, said it was important for people to understand the ultimate aim was not to rush a new Covid-19 vaccine to market. 

“This is about the role this technology could play in safeguarding against future pandemics, and ensuring we have an Australian-based rapid response vaccine pipeline and the team and infrastructure ready to deliver clinical-grade material should it be needed in the future,” Dr Watterson said. 

As part of UQ’s partnering agreement with CEPI, UQ agrees that vaccine candidates produced using their platform technology will be available in an outbreak situation to populations at risk including in low-income and middle-income countries. 

Image: Dr Noushin Jaberolansar and Dr Andrew Young at lab bench. The University of Queensland. 

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