The coming of age of virus-like particle vaccines.
Jennings GT., Bachmann MF.
Virus-like particles are supra-molecular assemblages, usually icosahedral or rod-like structures. They incorporate key immunologic features of viruses which include repetitive surfaces, particulate structures and induction of innate immunity through activation of pathogen-associated molecular-pattern recognition receptors. They carry no replicative genetic information and can be produced recombinantly in large scale. Virus-like particles thus represent a safe and effective vaccine platform for inducing potent B- and T-cell responses. In addition to being effective vaccines against the corresponding virus from which they are derived, virus-like particles can also be used to present foreign epitopes to the immune system. This can be achieved by genetic fusion or chemical conjugation. This technological innovation has greatly broadened the scope of their use, from immunizing against microbial pathogens to immunotherapy for chronic diseases. Towards this end, virus-like particles have been used to induce autoantibodies to disease-associated self-molecules involved in chronic diseases, such as hypertension and Alzheimer's disease. The recognition of the potent immunogenicity and commercial potential for virus-like particles has greatly accelerated research and development activities. During the last decade, two prophylactic virus-like particle vaccines have been registered for human use, while another 12 vaccines entered clinical development.