register interest

Dr Sumi Biswas

Research Area: Immunology
Technology Exchange: Vaccine production and evaluation
Scientific Themes: Immunology & Infectious Disease
Keywords: Malaria, vaccinology, infectious disease, immunology
Web Links:
Mosquitoes are placed in pots to enable feeding with test samples

Mosquitoes are placed in pots to enable feeding with test samples

Malaria parasites expressing green fluorescent protein in the mosquito midgut

Malaria parasites expressing green fluorescent protein in the mosquito midgut

My research interests include development of vaccines against malaria and primarily vaccines that aim to block transmission. This builds on work I previously did at the Jenner Institute on the development of blood-stage malaria vaccines and continue to do so mainly on the clinical side of the project.

We are utilising a simian adenovirus (ChAd63) and poxvirus (MVA) viral vectored vaccine platform to screen mosquito-stage antigens for effective antibody induction and ways of improving vaccine-induced antibody immunogenicity. The aim of this work is to provide the first and much needed head-to-head assessment of the in vivo efficacy of the known leading transmission-blocking vaccine (TBV) candidate antigens (both parasite and mosquito based), as well as look for novel antigens aimed at de-regulating the mosquito’s innate immune system in favour of transmission-blocking activity. The innate immune response of the mosquito considerably hinders the development of the parasite but this is often not sufficient to clear the infection. In natural infection of the mosquito by Plasmodium malaria parasites, there has to be a fine balance between the immune response against the parasite and immune pathology which is reportedly detrimental to the health of the mosquito. We are trying to tip this balance in favour of the mosquito’s immune system, which will hinder parasite development and reduce malaria transmission. This novel strategy if successful would not only work against potentially all five malaria species that infect humans, but likely also against some other mosquito-transmitted diseases and could have a major impact in decreasing the burden of vector-borne diseases. I have a Grand Challenge Explorations Grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to investigate this approach.

Name Department Institution Country
Professor Adrian VS Hill Jenner Institute University of Oxford United Kingdom
Professor Simon J Draper Jenner Institute University of Oxford United Kingdom
Professor Sarah C Gilbert Jenner Institute University of Oxford United Kingdom
Professor Kevin Marsh Tropical Medicine University of Oxford United Kingdom

Nikolaeva D, Draper SJ, Biswas S. 2015. Toward the development of effective transmission-blocking vaccines for malaria. Expert Rev Vaccines, 14 (5), pp. 653-680. Read abstract | Read more

The continued global burden of malaria can in part be attributed to a complex lifecycle, with both human hosts and mosquito vectors serving as transmission reservoirs. In preclinical models of vaccine-induced immunity, antibodies to parasite sexual-stage antigens, ingested in the mosquito blood meal, can inhibit parasite survival in the insect midgut as judged by ex vivo functional studies such as the membrane feeding assay. In an era of renewed political momentum for malaria elimination and eradication campaigns, such observations have fueled support for the development and implementation of so-called transmission-blocking vaccines. While leading candidates are being evaluated using a variety of promising vaccine platforms, the field is also beginning to capitalize on global '-omics' data for the rational genome-based selection and unbiased characterization of parasite and mosquito proteins to expand the candidate list. This review covers the progress and prospects of these recent developments. Hide abstract

Kapulu MC, Da DF, Miura K, Li Y, Blagborough AM, Churcher TS, Nikolaeva D, Williams AR et al. 2015. Comparative assessment of transmission-blocking vaccine candidates against Plasmodium falciparum. Sci Rep, 5 pp. 11193. Read abstract | Read more

Malaria transmission-blocking vaccines (TBVs) target the development of Plasmodium parasites within the mosquito, with the aim of preventing malaria transmission from one infected individual to another. Different vaccine platforms, mainly protein-in-adjuvant formulations delivering the leading candidate antigens, have been developed independently and have reported varied transmission-blocking activities (TBA). Here, recombinant chimpanzee adenovirus 63, ChAd63, and modified vaccinia virus Ankara, MVA, expressing AgAPN1, Pfs230-C, Pfs25, and Pfs48/45 were generated. Antibody responses primed individually against all antigens by ChAd63 immunization in BALB/c mice were boosted by the administration of MVA expressing the same antigen. These antibodies exhibited a hierarchy of inhibitory activity against the NF54 laboratory strain of P. falciparum in Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes using the standard membrane feeding assay (SMFA), with anti-Pfs230-C and anti-Pfs25 antibodies giving complete blockade. The observed rank order of inhibition was replicated against P. falciparum African field isolates in A. gambiae in direct membrane feeding assays (DMFA). TBA achieved was IgG concentration dependent. This study provides the first head-to-head comparative analysis of leading antigens using two different parasite sources in two different vector species, and can be used to guide selection of TBVs for future clinical development using the viral-vectored delivery platform. Hide abstract

Hodgson SH, Choudhary P, Elias SC, Milne KH, Rampling TW, Biswas S, Poulton ID, Miura K et al. 2014. Combining viral vectored and protein-in-adjuvant vaccines against the blood-stage malaria antigen AMA1: report on a phase 1a clinical trial. Mol Ther, 22 (12), pp. 2142-2154. Read abstract | Read more

The development of effective vaccines against difficult disease targets will require the identification of new subunit vaccination strategies that can induce and maintain effective immune responses in humans. Here we report on a phase 1a clinical trial using the AMA1 antigen from the blood-stage Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasite delivered either as recombinant protein formulated with Alhydrogel adjuvant with and without CPG 7909, or using recombinant vectored vaccines--chimpanzee adenovirus ChAd63 and the orthopoxvirus MVA. A variety of promising "mixed-modality" regimens were tested. All volunteers were primed with ChAd63, and then subsequently boosted with MVA and/or protein-in-adjuvant using either an 8- or 16-week prime-boost interval. We report on the safety of these regimens, as well as the T cell, B cell, and serum antibody responses. Notably, IgG antibody responses primed by ChAd63 were comparably boosted by AMA1 protein vaccine, irrespective of whether CPG 7909 was included in the Alhydrogel adjuvant. The ability to improve the potency of a relatively weak aluminium-based adjuvant in humans, by previously priming with an adenoviral vaccine vector encoding the same antigen, thus offers a novel vaccination strategy for difficult or neglected disease targets when access to more potent adjuvants is not possible. Hide abstract

Biswas S, Choudhary P, Elias SC, Miura K, Milne KH, de Cassan SC, Collins KA, Halstead FD et al. 2014. Assessment of humoral immune responses to blood-stage malaria antigens following ChAd63-MVA immunization, controlled human malaria infection and natural exposure. PLoS One, 9 (9), pp. e107903. Read abstract | Read more

The development of protective vaccines against many difficult infectious pathogens will necessitate the induction of effective antibody responses. Here we assess humoral immune responses against two antigens from the blood-stage merozoite of the Plasmodium falciparum human malaria parasite--MSP1 and AMA1. These antigens were delivered to healthy malaria-naïve adult volunteers in Phase Ia clinical trials using recombinant replication-deficient viral vectors--ChAd63 to prime the immune response and MVA to boost. In subsequent Phase IIa clinical trials, immunized volunteers underwent controlled human malaria infection (CHMI) with P. falciparum to assess vaccine efficacy, whereby all but one volunteer developed low-density blood-stage parasitemia. Here we assess serum antibody responses against both the MSP1 and AMA1 antigens following i) ChAd63-MVA immunization, ii) immunization and CHMI, and iii) primary malaria exposure in the context of CHMI in unimmunized control volunteers. Responses were also assessed in a cohort of naturally-immune Kenyan adults to provide comparison with those induced by a lifetime of natural malaria exposure. Serum antibody responses against MSP1 and AMA1 were characterized in terms of i) total IgG responses before and after CHMI, ii) responses to allelic variants of MSP1 and AMA1, iii) functional growth inhibitory activity (GIA), iv) IgG avidity, and v) isotype responses (IgG1-4, IgA and IgM). These data provide the first in-depth assessment of the quality of adenovirus-MVA vaccine-induced antibody responses in humans, along with assessment of how these responses are modulated by subsequent low-density parasite exposure. Notable differences were observed in qualitative aspects of the human antibody responses against these malaria antigens depending on the means of their induction and/or exposure of the host to the malaria parasite. Given the continued clinical development of viral vectored vaccines for malaria and a range of other diseases targets, these data should help to guide further immuno-monitoring studies of vaccine-induced human antibody responses. Hide abstract

Elias SC, Choudhary P, de Cassan SC, Biswas S, Collins KA, Halstead FD, Bliss CM, Ewer KJ et al. 2014. Analysis of human B-cell responses following ChAd63-MVA MSP1 and AMA1 immunization and controlled malaria infection. Immunology, 141 (4), pp. 628-644. Read abstract | Read more

Acquisition of non-sterilizing natural immunity to Plasmodium falciparum malaria has been shown in low transmission areas following multiple exposures. However, conflicting data from endemic areas suggest that the parasite may interfere with the induction of effective B-cell responses. To date, the impact of blood-stage parasite exposure on antigen-specific B cells has not been reported following controlled human malaria infection (CHMI). Here we analysed human B-cell responses in a series of Phase I/IIa clinical trials, which include CHMI, using candidate virus-vectored vaccines encoding two blood-stage antigens: merozoite surface protein 1 (MSP1) and apical membrane antigen 1 (AMA1). Previously vaccinated volunteers show boosting of pre-existing antigen-specific memory B-cell (mBC) responses following CHMI. In contrast, unvaccinated malaria-naive control volunteers developed an mBC response against MSP1 but not AMA1. Serum IgG correlated with the mBC response after booster vaccination but this relationship was less well maintained following CHMI. A significant reduction in peripheral MSP1-specific mBC was observed at the point of diagnosis of blood-stage infection. This was coincident with a reduction in peripheral blood B-cell subsets expressing CXCR3 and elevated serum levels of interferon-γ and CXCL9, suggesting migration away from the periphery. These CHMI data confirm that mBC and antibody responses can be induced and boosted by blood-stage parasite exposure, in support of epidemiological studies on low-level parasite exposure. Hide abstract

Williams AR, Zakutansky SE, Miura K, Dicks MD, Churcher TS, Jewell KE, Vaughan AM, Turner AV et al. 2013. Immunisation against a serine protease inhibitor reduces intensity of Plasmodium berghei infection in mosquitoes. Int J Parasitol, 43 (11), pp. 869-874. Read abstract | Read more

The mosquito innate immune response is able to clear the majority of Plasmodium parasites. This immune clearance is controlled by a number of regulatory molecules including serine protease inhibitors (serpins). To determine whether such molecules could represent a novel target for a malaria transmission-blocking vaccine, we vaccinated mice with Anopheles gambiae serpin-2. Antibodies against Anopheles gambiae serpin-2 significantly reduced the infection of a heterologous Anopheles species (Anopheles stephensi) by Plasmodium berghei, however this effect was not observed with Plasmodium falciparum. Therefore, this approach of targeting regulatory molecules of the mosquito immune system may represent a novel approach to transmission-blocking malaria vaccines. Hide abstract

Elias SC, Collins KA, Halstead FD, Choudhary P, Bliss CM, Ewer KJ, Sheehy SH, Duncan CJ, Biswas S, Hill AV, Draper SJ. 2013. Assessment of immune interference, antagonism, and diversion following human immunization with biallelic blood-stage malaria viral-vectored vaccines and controlled malaria infection. J Immunol, 190 (3), pp. 1135-1147. Read abstract | Read more

Overcoming antigenic variation is one of the major challenges in the development of an effective vaccine against Plasmodium falciparum, a causative agent of human malaria. Inclusion of multiple Ag variants in subunit vaccine candidates is one strategy that has aimed to overcome this problem for the leading blood-stage malaria vaccine targets, that is, merozoite surface protein 1 (MSP1) and apical membrane Ag 1 (AMA1). However, previous studies, utilizing malaria Ags, have concluded that inclusion of multiple allelic variants, encoding altered peptide ligands, in such a vaccine may be detrimental to both the priming and in vivo restimulation of Ag-experienced T cells. In this study, we analyze the T cell responses to two alleles of MSP1 and AMA1 induced by vaccination of malaria-naive adult volunteers with bivalent viral-vectored vaccine candidates. We show a significant bias to the 3D7/MAD20 allele compared with the Wellcome allele for the 33 kDa region of MSP1, but not for the 19 kDa fragment or the AMA1 Ag. Although this bias could be caused by "immune interference" at priming, the data do not support a significant role for "immune antagonism" during memory T cell restimulation, despite observation of the latter at a minimal epitope level in vitro. A lack of class I HLA epitopes in the Wellcome allele that are recognized by vaccinated volunteers may in fact contribute to the observed bias. We also show that controlled infection with 3D7 strain P. falciparum parasites neither boosts existing 3D7-specific T cell responses nor appears to "immune divert" cellular responses toward the Wellcome allele. Hide abstract

Sheehy SH, Duncan CJ, Elias SC, Choudhary P, Biswas S, Halstead FD, Collins KA, Edwards NJ et al. 2012. ChAd63-MVA-vectored blood-stage malaria vaccines targeting MSP1 and AMA1: assessment of efficacy against mosquito bite challenge in humans. Mol Ther, 20 (12), pp. 2355-2368. Read abstract | Read more

The induction of cellular immunity, in conjunction with antibodies, may be essential for vaccines to protect against blood-stage infection with the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. We have shown that prime-boost delivery of P. falciparum blood-stage antigens by chimpanzee adenovirus 63 (ChAd63) followed by the attenuated orthopoxvirus MVA is safe and immunogenic in healthy adults. Here, we report on vaccine efficacy against controlled human malaria infection delivered by mosquito bites. The blood-stage malaria vaccines were administered alone, or together (MSP1+AMA1), or with a pre-erythrocytic malaria vaccine candidate (MSP1+ME-TRAP). In this first human use of coadministered ChAd63-MVA regimes, we demonstrate immune interference whereby responses against merozoite surface protein 1 (MSP1) are dominant over apical membrane antigen 1 (AMA1) and ME-TRAP. We also show that induction of strong cellular immunity against MSP1 and AMA1 is safe, but does not impact on parasite growth rates in the blood. In a subset of vaccinated volunteers, a delay in time to diagnosis was observed and sterilizing protection was observed in one volunteer coimmunized with MSP1+AMA1-results consistent with vaccine-induced pre-erythrocytic, rather than blood-stage, immunity. These data call into question the utility of T cell-inducing blood-stage malaria vaccines and suggest that the focus should remain on high-titer antibody induction against susceptible antigen targets. Hide abstract

Churcher TS, Blagborough AM, Delves M, Ramakrishnan C, Kapulu MC, Williams AR, Biswas S, Da DF, Cohuet A, Sinden RE. 2012. Measuring the blockade of malaria transmission--an analysis of the Standard Membrane Feeding Assay. Int J Parasitol, 42 (11), pp. 1037-1044. Read abstract | Read more

The standard membrane feeding assay (SMFA) is currently considered to be the 'gold standard' for assessing the effectiveness of malaria transmission blocking interventions (TBIs) in vivo. The operation and analysis of SMFAs has varied between laboratories: field scientists often measure TBI efficacy as a reduction in the prevalence of infected mosquitoes whilst laboratory scientists are more likely to quote efficacy as a change in the number of oocysts within the mosquito. These metrics give outputs that differ widely, resulting in a need for greater understanding of how the SMFA informs TBI assessment. Using data from 536 different assays (conducted on Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium berghei, in either Anopheles gambiae or Anopheles stephensi) it is shown that the relationship between these metrics is complex, yet predictable. Results demonstrate that the distribution of oocysts between mosquitoes is highly aggregated, making efficacy estimates based on reductions in intensity highly uncertain. Analysis of 30 SMFAs carried out on the same TBI confirms that the observed reduction in prevalence depends upon the parasite exposure (as measured by oocyst intensity in the control group), with assays which have lower exposure appearing more effective. By contrast, if efficacy is estimated as a reduction in oocyst intensity, then this candidate demonstrated constant efficacy, irrespective of the exposure level. To report transmission-blockade efficacy accurately, the results of SMFAs should give both the prevalence and intensity of oocysts in both the control and intervention group. Candidates should be assessed against a range of parasite exposures to allow laboratory results to be extrapolated to different field situations. Currently, many studies assessing TBIs are underpowered and uncertainties in efficacy estimates rarely reported. Statistical techniques that account for oocyst over-dispersion can reduce the number of mosquitoes that need to be dissected and allow TBI candidates from different laboratories to be accurately compared. Hide abstract

Sinden RE, Blagborough AM, Churcher T, Ramakrishnan C, Biswas S, Delves MJ. 2012. The design and interpretation of laboratory assays measuring mosquito transmission of Plasmodium. Trends Parasitol, 28 (11), pp. 457-465. Read abstract | Read more

Since 2010 two global reviews of malaria research have recognized that local elimination and eradication of Plasmodium parasites are key drivers for further experimentation. To achieve these ambitious objectives it is universally recognized we must reduce malaria transmission through the mosquito vectors. A plethora of new laboratory assays are being developed to interrogate malaria transmission from the gametocyte to the sporozoite stage: assays that augment well-established field protocols to determine the entomological inoculation rate. However, the diverse readouts of these assays are not directly comparable. Here we attempt to identify the utility of each assay and provide rational frameworks by which to compare the impacts recorded by the diverse methodologies. Hide abstract

Biswas S, Spencer AJ, Forbes EK, Gilbert SC, Holder AA, Hill AV, Draper SJ. 2012. Recombinant viral-vectored vaccines expressing Plasmodium chabaudi AS apical membrane antigen 1: mechanisms of vaccine-induced blood-stage protection. J Immunol, 188 (10), pp. 5041-5053. Read abstract | Read more

Apical membrane Ag 1 (AMA1) is one of the leading candidate Ags for inclusion in a subunit vaccine against blood-stage malaria. However, the efficacy of Ab-inducing recombinant AMA1 protein vaccines in phase IIa/b clinical trials remains disappointing. In this article, we describe the development of recombinant human adenovirus serotype 5 and modified vaccinia virus Ankara vectors encoding AMA1 from the Plasmodium chabaudi chabaudi strain AS. These vectors, when used in a heterologous prime-boost regimen in BALB/c mice, are capable of inducing strong transgene-specific humoral and cellular immune responses. We show that this vaccination regimen is protective against a nonlethal P. chabaudi chabaudi strain AS blood-stage challenge, resulting in reduced peak parasitemias. The role of vaccine-induced, AMA1-specific Abs and T cells in mediating the antiparasite effect was investigated by in vivo depletion of CD4(+) T cells and adoptive-transfer studies into naive and immunodeficient mice. Depletion of CD4(+) T cells led to a loss of vaccine-induced protection. Adoptive-transfer studies confirmed that efficacy is mediated by both CD4(+) T cells and Abs functioning in the context of an intact immune system. Unlike previous studies, these results confirm that Ag-specific CD4(+) T cells, induced by a clinically relevant vaccine-delivery platform, can make a significant contribution to vaccine blood-stage efficacy in the P. chabaudi model. Given that cell-mediated immunity may also contribute to parasite control in human malaria, these data support the clinical development of viral-vectored vaccines that induce both T cell and Abs against Plasmodium falciparum blood-stage malaria Ags like AMA1. Hide abstract

Sheehy SH, Duncan CJ, Elias SC, Choudhary P, Biswas S, Halstead FD, Collins KA, Edwards NJ et al. 2012. ChAd63-MVA-vectored blood-stage Malaria vaccines targeting MSP1 and AMA1: Assessment of efficacy against mosquito bite challenge in humans Molecular Therapy, 20 (12), pp. 2355-2368. Read abstract | Read more

The induction of cellular immunity, in conjunction with antibodies, may be essential for vaccines to protect against blood-stage infection with the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. We have shown that prime-boost delivery of P. falciparum blood-stage antigens by chimpanzee adenovirus 63 (ChAd63) followed by the attenuated orthopoxvirus MVA is safe and immunogenic in healthy adults. Here, we report on vaccine efficacy against controlled human malaria infection delivered by mosquito bites. The blood-stage malaria vaccines were administered alone, or together (MSP1AMA1), or with a pre-erythrocytic malaria vaccine candidate (MSP1ME-TRAP). In this first human use of coadministered ChAd63-MVA regimes, we demonstrate immune interference whereby responses against merozoite surface protein 1 (MSP1) are dominant over apical membrane antigen 1 (AMA1) and ME-TRAP. We also show that induction of strong cellular immunity against MSP1 and AMA1 is safe, but does not impact on parasite growth rates in the blood. In a subset of vaccinated volunteers, a delay in time to diagnosis was observed and sterilizing protection was observed in one volunteer coimmunized with MSP1AMA1 - results consistent with vaccine-induced pre-erythrocytic, rather than blood-stage, immunity. These data call into question the utility of T cell-inducing blood-stage malaria vaccines and suggest that the focus should remain on high-titer antibody induction against susceptible antigen targets. © The American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy. Hide abstract

Churcher TS, Blagborough AM, Delves M, Ramakrishnan C, Kapulu MC, Williams AR, Biswas S, Da DF, Cohuet A, Sinden RE. 2012. Measuring the blockade of malaria transmission - An analysis of the Standard Membrane Feeding Assay International Journal for Parasitology, 42 (11), pp. 1037-1044. Read abstract | Read more

The standard membrane feeding assay (SMFA) is currently considered to be the 'gold standard' for assessing the effectiveness of malaria transmission blocking interventions (TBIs) in vivo. The operation and analysis of SMFAs has varied between laboratories: field scientists often measure TBI efficacy as a reduction in the prevalence of infected mosquitoes whilst laboratory scientists are more likely to quote efficacy as a change in the number of oocysts within the mosquito. These metrics give outputs that differ widely, resulting in a need for greater understanding of how the SMFA informs TBI assessment. Using data from 536 different assays (conducted on Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium berghei, in either Anopheles gambiae or Anopheles stephensi) it is shown that the relationship between these metrics is complex, yet predictable. Results demonstrate that the distribution of oocysts between mosquitoes is highly aggregated, making efficacy estimates based on reductions in intensity highly uncertain. Analysis of 30 SMFAs carried out on the same TBI confirms that the observed reduction in prevalence depends upon the parasite exposure (as measured by oocyst intensity in the control group), with assays which have lower exposure appearing more effective. By contrast, if efficacy is estimated as a reduction in oocyst intensity, then this candidate demonstrated constant efficacy, irrespective of the exposure level. To report transmission-blockade efficacy accurately, the results of SMFAs should give both the prevalence and intensity of oocysts in both the control and intervention group. Candidates should be assessed against a range of parasite exposures to allow laboratory results to be extrapolated to different field situations. Currently, many studies assessing TBIs are underpowered and uncertainties in efficacy estimates rarely reported. Statistical techniques that account for oocyst over-dispersion can reduce the number of mosquitoes that need to be dissected and allow TBI candidates from different laboratories to be accurately compared. © 2012 Australian Society for Parasitology Inc. Hide abstract

Sinden RE, Blagborough AM, Churcher T, Ramakrishnan C, Biswas S, Delves MJ. 2012. The design and interpretation of laboratory assays measuring mosquito transmission of Plasmodium Trends in Parasitology, 28 (11), pp. 457-465. Read abstract | Read more

Since 2010 two global reviews of malaria research have recognized that local elimination and eradication of Plasmodium parasites are key drivers for further experimentation. To achieve these ambitious objectives it is universally recognized we must reduce malaria transmission through the mosquito vectors. A plethora of new laboratory assays are being developed to interrogate malaria transmission from the gametocyte to the sporozoite stage: assays that augment well-established field protocols to determine the entomological inoculation rate. However, the diverse readouts of these assays are not directly comparable. Here we attempt to identify the utility of each assay and provide rational frameworks by which to compare the impacts recorded by the diverse methodologies. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. Hide abstract

Forbes EK, de Cassan SC, Llewellyn D, Biswas S, Goodman AL, Cottingham MG, Long CA, Pleass RJ, Hill AV, Hill F, Draper SJ. 2012. T cell responses induced by adenoviral vectored vaccines can be adjuvanted by fusion of antigen to the oligomerization domain of C4b-binding protein. PLoS One, 7 (9), pp. e44943. Read abstract | Read more

Viral vectored vaccines have been shown to induce both T cell and antibody responses in animals and humans. However, the induction of even higher level T cell responses may be crucial in achieving vaccine efficacy against difficult disease targets, especially in humans. Here we investigate the oligomerization domain of the α-chain of C4b-binding protein (C4 bp) as a candidate T cell "molecular adjuvant" when fused to malaria antigens expressed by human adenovirus serotype 5 (AdHu5) vectored vaccines in BALB/c mice. We demonstrate that i) C-terminal fusion of an oligomerization domain can enhance the quantity of antigen-specific CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cell responses induced in mice after only a single immunization of recombinant AdHu5, and that the T cells maintain similar functional cytokine profiles; ii) an adjuvant effect is observed for AdHu5 vectors expressing either the 42 kDa C-terminal domain of Plasmodium yoelii merozoite surface protein 1 (PyMSP1(42)) or the 83 kDa ectodomain of P. falciparum strain 3D7 apical membrane antigen 1 (PfAMA1), but not a candidate 128kDa P. falciparum MSP1 biallelic fusion antigen; iii) following two homologous immunizations of AdHu5 vaccines, antigen-specific T cell responses are further enhanced, however, in both BALB/c mice and New Zealand White rabbits no enhancement of functional antibody responses is observed; and iv) that the T cell adjuvant activity of C4 bp is not dependent on a functional Fc-receptor γ-chain in the host, but is associated with the oligomerization of small (<80 kDa) antigens expressed by recombinant AdHu5. The oligomerization domain of C4 bp can thus adjuvant T cell responses induced by AdHu5 vectors against selected antigens and its clinical utility as well as mechanism of action warrant further investigation. Hide abstract

Sheehy SH, Duncan CJ, Elias SC, Biswas S, Collins KA, O'Hara GA, Halstead FD, Ewer KJ et al. 2012. Phase Ia clinical evaluation of the safety and immunogenicity of the Plasmodium falciparum blood-stage antigen AMA1 in ChAd63 and MVA vaccine vectors. PLoS One, 7 (2), pp. e31208. Read abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Traditionally, vaccine development against the blood-stage of Plasmodium falciparum infection has focused on recombinant protein-adjuvant formulations in order to induce high-titer growth-inhibitory antibody responses. However, to date no such vaccine encoding a blood-stage antigen(s) alone has induced significant protective efficacy against erythrocytic-stage infection in a pre-specified primary endpoint of a Phase IIa/b clinical trial designed to assess vaccine efficacy. Cell-mediated responses, acting in conjunction with functional antibodies, may be necessary for immunity against blood-stage P. falciparum. The development of a vaccine that could induce both cell-mediated and humoral immune responses would enable important proof-of-concept efficacy studies to be undertaken to address this question. METHODOLOGY: We conducted a Phase Ia, non-randomized clinical trial in 16 healthy, malaria-naïve adults of the chimpanzee adenovirus 63 (ChAd63) and modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA) replication-deficient viral vectored vaccines encoding two alleles (3D7 and FVO) of the P. falciparum blood-stage malaria antigen; apical membrane antigen 1 (AMA1). ChAd63-MVA AMA1 administered in a heterologous prime-boost regime was shown to be safe and immunogenic, inducing high-level T cell responses to both alleles 3D7 (median 2036 SFU/million PBMC) and FVO (median 1539 SFU/million PBMC), with a mixed CD4(+)/CD8(+) phenotype, as well as substantial AMA1-specific serum IgG responses (medians of 49 µg/mL and 41 µg/mL for 3D7 and FVO AMA1 respectively) that demonstrated growth inhibitory activity in vitro. CONCLUSIONS: ChAd63-MVA is a safe and highly immunogenic delivery platform for both alleles of the AMA1 antigen in humans which warrants further efficacy testing. ChAd63-MVA is a promising heterologous prime-boost vaccine strategy that could be applied to numerous other diseases where strong cellular and humoral immune responses are required for protection. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01095055. Hide abstract

Forbes EK, Biswas S, Collins KA, Gilbert SC, Hill AV, Draper SJ. 2011. Combining liver- and blood-stage malaria viral-vectored vaccines: investigating mechanisms of CD8+ T cell interference. J Immunol, 187 (7), pp. 3738-3750. Read abstract | Read more

Replication-deficient adenovirus and modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA) vectors expressing single pre-erythrocytic or blood-stage Plasmodium falciparum Ags have entered clinical testing using a heterologous prime-boost immunization approach. In this study, we investigated the utility of the same immunization regimen when combining viral vectored vaccines expressing the 42-kDa C terminus of the blood-stage Ag merozoite surface protein 1 and the pre-erythrocytic Ag circumsporozoite protein in the Plasmodium yoelii mouse model. We find that vaccine coadministration leads to maintained Ab responses and efficacy against blood-stage infection, but reduced secondary CD8(+) T cell responses against both Ags and efficacy against liver-stage infection. CD8(+) T cell interference can be minimized by coadministering the MVA vaccines at separate sites, resulting in enhanced liver-stage efficacy in mice immunized against both Ags compared with just one. CD8(+) T cell interference (following MVA coadministration as a mixture) may be caused partly by a lack of physiologic space for high-magnitude responses against multiple Ags, but is not caused by competition for presentation of Ag on MHC class I molecules, nor is it due to restricted T cell access to APCs presenting both Ags. Instead, enhanced killing of peptide-pulsed cells is observed in mice possessing pre-existing T cells against two Ags compared with just one, suggesting that priming against multiple Ags may in part reduce the potency of multiantigen MVA vectors to stimulate secondary CD8(+) T cell responses. These data have important implications for the development of a multistage or multicomponent viral vectored malaria vaccine for use in humans. Hide abstract

Draper SJ, Goodman AL, Biswas S, Forbes EK, Moore AC, Gilbert SC, Hill AVS. 2011. Recombinant Viral Vaccines Expressing Merozoite Surface Protein-1 Induce Antibody- and T Cell-Mediated Multistage Protection against Malaria (vol 5, pg 95, 2009) CELL HOST & MICROBE, 9 (3), pp. 252-252. | Read more

Goodman AL, Blagborough AM, Biswas S, Wu Y, Hill AV, Sinden RE, Draper SJ. 2011. A viral vectored prime-boost immunization regime targeting the malaria Pfs25 antigen induces transmission-blocking activity. PLoS One, 6 (12), pp. e29428. Read abstract | Read more

The ookinete surface protein Pfs25 is a macrogamete-to-ookinete/ookinete stage antigen of Plasmodium falciparum, capable of exerting high-level anti-malarial transmission-blocking activity following immunization with recombinant protein-in-adjuvant formulations. Here, this antigen was expressed in recombinant chimpanzee adenovirus 63 (ChAd63), human adenovirus serotype 5 (AdHu5) and modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA) viral vectored vaccines. Two immunizations were administered to mice in a heterologous prime-boost regime. Immunization of mice with AdHu5 Pfs25 at week 0 and MVA Pfs25 at week 10 (Ad-MVA Pfs25) resulted in high anti-Pfs25 IgG titers, consisting of predominantly isotypes IgG1 and IgG2a. A single priming immunization with ChAd63 Pfs25 was as effective as AdHu5 Pfs25 with respect to ELISA titers at 8 weeks post-immunization. Sera from Ad-MVA Pfs25 immunized mice inhibited the transmission of P. falciparum to the mosquito both ex vivo and in vivo. In a standard membrane-feeding assay using NF54 strain P. falciparum, oocyst intensity in Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes was significantly reduced in an IgG concentration-dependent manner when compared to control feeds (96% reduction of intensity, 78% reduction in prevalence at a 1 in 5 dilution of sera). In addition, an in vivo transmission-blocking effect was also demonstrated by direct feeding of immunized mice infected with Pfs25DR3, a chimeric P. berghei line expressing Pfs25 in place of endogenous Pbs25. In this assay the density of Pfs25DR3 oocysts was significantly reduced when mosquitoes were fed on vaccinated as compared to control mice (67% reduction of intensity, 28% reduction in prevalence) and specific IgG titer correlated with efficacy. These data confirm the utility of the adenovirus-MVA vaccine platform for the induction of antibodies with transmission-blocking activity, and support the continued development of this alternative approach to transmission-blocking malaria subunit vaccines. Hide abstract

Douglas AD, Williams AR, Illingworth JJ, Kamuyu G, Biswas S, Goodman AL, Wyllie DH, Crosnier C et al. 2011. The blood-stage malaria antigen PfRH5 is susceptible to vaccine-inducible cross-strain neutralizing antibody. Nat Commun, 2 (1), pp. 601. Read abstract | Read more

Current vaccine strategies against the asexual blood stage of Plasmodium falciparum are mostly focused on well-studied merozoite antigens that induce immune responses after natural exposure, but have yet to induce robust protection in any clinical trial. Here we compare human-compatible viral-vectored vaccines targeting ten different blood-stage antigens. We show that the full-length P. falciparum reticulocyte-binding protein homologue 5 (PfRH5) is highly susceptible to cross-strain neutralizing vaccine-induced antibodies, out-performing all other antigens delivered by the same vaccine platform. We find that, despite being susceptible to antibody, PfRH5 is unlikely to be under substantial immune selection pressure; there is minimal acquisition of anti-PfRH5 IgG antibodies in malaria-exposed Kenyans. These data challenge the widespread beliefs that any merozoite antigen that is highly susceptible to immune attack would be subject to significant levels of antigenic polymorphism, and that erythrocyte invasion by P. falciparum is a degenerate process involving a series of parallel redundant pathways. Hide abstract

Porter DW, Thompson FM, Berthoud TK, Hutchings CL, Andrews L, Biswas S, Poulton I, Prieur E et al. 2011. A human phase I/IIa malaria challenge trial of a polyprotein malaria vaccine Vaccine, 29 (43), pp. 7514-7522. Read abstract | Read more

We examined the safety, immunogenicity and efficacy of a prime-boost vaccination regime involving two poxvirus malaria subunit vaccines, FP9-PP and MVA-PP, expressing the same polyprotein consisting of six pre-erythrocytic antigens from Plasmodium falciparum. Following safety assessment of single doses, 15 volunteers received a heterologous prime-boost vaccination regime and underwent malaria sporozoite challenge. The vaccines were safe but interferon-γ ELISPOT responses were low compared to other poxvirus vectors, despite targeting multiple antigens. There was no vaccine efficacy as measured by delay in time to parasitaemia. A number of possible explanations are discussed, including the very large insert size of the polyprotein transgene. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. Hide abstract

Biswas S, Dicks MD, Long CA, Remarque EJ, Siani L, Colloca S, Cottingham MG, Holder AA, Gilbert SC, Hill AV, Draper SJ. 2011. Transgene optimization, immunogenicity and in vitro efficacy of viral vectored vaccines expressing two alleles of Plasmodium falciparum AMA1. PLoS One, 6 (6), pp. e20977. Read abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Apical membrane antigen 1 (AMA1) is a leading candidate vaccine antigen against blood-stage malaria, although to date numerous clinical trials using mainly protein-in-adjuvant vaccines have shown limited success. Here we describe the pre-clinical development and optimization of recombinant human and simian adenoviral (AdHu5 and ChAd63) and orthopoxviral (MVA) vectors encoding transgene inserts for Plasmodium falciparum AMA1 (PfAMA1). METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: AdHu5-MVA prime-boost vaccination in mice and rabbits using these vectors encoding the 3D7 allele of PfAMA1 induced cellular immune responses as well as high-titer antibodies that showed growth inhibitory activity (GIA) against the homologous but not heterologous parasite strains. In an effort to overcome the issues of PfAMA1 antigenic polymorphism and pre-existing immunity to AdHu5, a simian adenoviral (ChAd63) vector and MVA encoding two alleles of PfAMA1 were developed. This antigen, composed of the 3D7 and FVO alleles of PfAMA1 fused in tandem and with expression driven by a single promoter, was optimized for antigen secretion and transmembrane expression. These bi-allelic PfAMA1 vaccines, when administered to mice and rabbits, demonstrated comparable immunogenicity to the mono-allelic vaccines and purified serum IgG now showed GIA against the two divergent strains of P. falciparum encoded in the vaccine. CD8(+) and CD4(+) T cell responses against epitopes that were both common and unique to the two alleles of PfAMA1 were also measured in mice. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Optimized transgene inserts encoding two divergent alleles of the same antigen can be successfully inserted into adeno- and pox-viral vaccine vectors. Adenovirus-MVA immunization leads to the induction of T cell responses common to both alleles, as well as functional antibody responses that are effective against both of the encoded strains of P. falciparum in vitro. These data support the further clinical development of these vaccine candidates in Phase I/IIa clinical trials. Hide abstract

Draper SJ, Biswas S, Spencer AJ, Remarque EJ, Capone S, Naddeo M, Dicks MD, Faber BW et al. 2010. Enhancing blood-stage malaria subunit vaccine immunogenicity in rhesus macaques by combining adenovirus, poxvirus, and protein-in-adjuvant vaccines. J Immunol, 185 (12), pp. 7583-7595. Read abstract | Read more

Protein-in-adjuvant formulations and viral-vectored vaccines encoding blood-stage malaria Ags have shown efficacy in rodent malaria models and in vitro assays against Plasmodium falciparum. Abs and CD4(+) T cell responses are associated with protective efficacy against blood-stage malaria, whereas CD8(+) T cells against some classical blood-stage Ags can also have a protective effect against liver-stage parasites. No subunit vaccine strategy alone has generated demonstrable high-level efficacy against blood-stage infection in clinical trials. The induction of high-level Ab responses, as well as potent T and B cell effector and memory populations, is likely to be essential to achieve immediate and sustained protective efficacy in humans. This study describes in detail the immunogenicity of vaccines against P. falciparum apical membrane Ag 1 in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta), including the chimpanzee adenovirus 63 (AdCh63), the poxvirus modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA), and protein vaccines formulated in Alhydrogel or CoVaccine HT adjuvants. AdCh63-MVA heterologous prime-boost immunization induces strong and long-lasting multifunctional CD8(+) and CD4(+) T cell responses that exhibit a central memory-like phenotype. Three-shot (AdCh63-MVA-protein) or two-shot (AdCh63-protein) regimens induce memory B cells and high-titer functional IgG responses that inhibit the growth of two divergent strains of P. falciparum in vitro. Prior immunization with adenoviral vectors of alternative human or simian serotype does not affect the immunogenicity of the AdCh63 apical membrane Ag 1 vaccine. These data encourage the further clinical development and coadministration of protein and viral vector vaccine platforms in an attempt to induce broad cellular and humoral immune responses against blood-stage malaria Ags in humans. Hide abstract

Assessment and characterisation of humoral immune response against a transmission-blocking malaria vaccine candidate in a Phase 1 clinical trial

Plasmodium falciparum malaria continues to exert an unacceptable level of morbidity and mortality in the developing world. Although it is likely that the pre-erythrocytic malaria vaccine candidate RTS,S/AS01B will be licensed soon, it has modest clinical efficacy. Transmission-blocking malaria vaccines (TBVs) prevent human malaria infection by inducing immunity against the sexual-stages of the parasite in the mosquito host thus blocking transmission in vaccinated areas. TBVs are viewed as essent ...

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Assessment of novel virus-like particle-based vaccines against blood-stage malaria

Induction of persistent, high-titre protective antibodies is crucial in the development of novel vaccines against major human pathogens. The drive to develop strong immune responses against difficult pathogens, such as malaria, has led to a range of innovative new approaches for the delivery of target antigens in subunit vaccine formulations.The Blood-Stage Malaria Group at the Jenner Institute has identified the PfRH5 malaria antigen as the leading candidate antigen for inclusion in a next-gene ...

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Enhancing Antibody Immunogenicity of Malaria Vaccines

The malaria vaccine group at the Jenner Institute has developed numerous approaches that aim to generate very powerful antibody and T cell responses when used in optimised subunit vaccine immunisation regimes. These approaches have included the use of both viral vectored vaccines as well as protein-in-adjuvant formulations. A series of Phase I/IIa clinical trials are in progress of the most promising new approaches targeting the most virulent malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum with future tr ...

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