skip to content

Lab of Viral Zoonotics (LVZ)

Vaccine Development

We take a One Health approach to vaccine development, based on the need to understand future threats of animal-to-human (zoonotic) virus spillovers from their natural animal reservoirs to humans. This information is important to develop the most protective vaccines to prevent future human outbreaks.  

A disproportionally high number of emerging and re-emerging diseases are caused by RNA viruses, and many are carried naturally by animals. Their genomes are notoriously variable due to the high mutation rate that occurs during their replication. These mutations accumulate over time and results in the evolution of the viruses into variants as they circulate in their natural animal reservoir populations. Thus, these variant viruses carried by animals are a risk to human health and may spillover to people who share the same environment. As happened with SARS-CoV-2, if viral variants arise that can adapt to use human cell receptors and are able to escape our immune defences, they may become highly infectious and cause large disease outbreaks. However, vaccination prior to infection can play an important role in protecting individuals from disease and preventing public health crises.  

However, vaccines are only as good as the immune targets (the viral protein, i.e., antigen, presented by vaccines) of the pathogen that they are designed for. If the antigens of a circulating virus change, the vaccine will become less protective. In most cases, current vaccine candidates against RNA viruses are from past human outbreaks with little or no consideration on the future risks from the variants circulating in animal reservoirs, especially those with the potential for zoonotic transmission.  

For our One Health and accelerating Vaccines for Ebola and Lassa (OVEL) and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Flu Lab projects, we are developing vaccines using a novel technology which merges (i) sequences of outbreak pathogens and their reservoirs, (ii) broadly anti-viral neutralising monoclonal antibodies derived from survivors, (iii) computational modelling methodologies, (iv) synthetic gene technology, and (v) in vivo immune selection and vaccine efficacy readouts. The end products are novel vaccine antigens to trigger the broadest spectrum of protective immune responses. We are using this technology to develop vaccines against re-emerging RNA viruses such as SARS-CoV-2, Influenza, Lassa Fever and Ebola viruses.


Find out more about our work in: