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Supramolecular engineering of glycan-decorated peptides as synthetic vaccines

Project description

A novel vaccine 'train' carries a diversely qualified team to the station

Vaccines are currently being made by tacking a natural antigen – a component of the offending microbe recognised by the immune system – onto a carrier protein. While this method has achieved significant gains in the realm of public health, the vaccines are rather limited in scope/function, and the current large protein molecule formulations have limited stability and shelf life. Sort of like a building manager with a lot of keys on their key ring, the EU-funded SUPRAVACC project's synthetic multipotent vaccines will carry multiple different immunostimulants and antigens. Their stability will get a boost from the reliance on small molecules rather than large delicate proteins. In short, the technology could revolutionise vaccine scope and vaccination speed and efficacy.


The main and most important feature of vaccines is the induction of an immunological memory response, which is key to providing long-term protection against pathogens. The current strategies for potent antibacterial and antiviral vaccines employ conjugation of pathogen specific entities onto carrier proteins, and are limited to formulations that suffer from low stability and short shelf-lives, and are thus not viable in developing countries. Strategies for the development of new vaccinations against endogenous diseases like cancer further remain an unmet challenge, since current methodologies suffer from a lack of a modular and tailored vaccine-specific functionalisation. I therefore propose a radically new design approach in the development of fully synthetic molecular vaccines. My team will synthesise carbohydrate and glycopeptide appended epitopes that are grafted onto supramolecular building blocks. These units can be individually designed to attach disease specific antigens and immunostimulants. Due to their self-assembling properties into nanoscaled pathogen mimetic particles, they serve as a supramolecular subunit vaccine toolbox. By developing a universal supramolecular polymer platform, we will construct multipotent vaccines from glycan-decorated peptides, that combine the activity of protein conjugates with the facile handling, precise composition and increased stability of traditional small molecule pharmaceutical compounds.
SUPRAVACC will pioneer the design of minimalistic and broadly applicable vaccines, and will evaluate the supramolecular engineering approach for immunisations against antibacterial diseases, as well as for applications as antitumour vaccine candidates. The fundamental insights gained will drive a paradigm shift in the design and preparation of vaccine candidates in academic and industrial research laboratories.


Net EU contribution
€ 1 924 752,50
Saarstrasse 21
55122 Mainz

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Rheinland-Pfalz Rheinhessen-Pfalz Mainz, Kreisfreie Stadt
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00

Beneficiaries (2)