WE MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Performing life-changing research is our core

OUR APPROACH

Selecting the Artemis research agenda

We believe that Artemis can contribute significantly to achieving better health for humans, animals and the environment by keeping a focus on the science related to the patient, the animal and their environment.

Artemis pursues a unique approach towards selecting its research agenda by maintaining a close connection between its research and clinical needs:

  • Research priorities are determined from the beginning by clinical needs.
  • Research focusing on diseases caused by arbo– and zoonotic viruses is outlined in close collaboration with collaborating partners.

While medical needs provide the ultimate driver of research, Artemis’ principal aim will be to generate new insights and knowledge about the biological mechanisms perturbed in cells, tissues and body function during viral infection. By encouraging interactions between basic and clinical scientists (humans and animals) a translational approach will be firmly embedded within Artemis’ research programmes.

OUR PHILOSOPHY

Artemis is ambitious as it combines a global outlook, a long-term perspective and the aim of generating critical reductions in disease burden of the rich and the poor. To achieve its objectives, Artemis will be imaginative and take risks. The coalition of researchers who combine the best creative ideas with belief in collaboration will help Artemis to turn promise into reality.

Artemis One Health is dedicated to understanding viral pathogenesis mechanisms and developing cheap, safe and effective intervention strategies. Therefore Artemis uses not only the well-established sophisticated microbiological and immunological ‘toolbox’ but also the whole spectrum of cutting edge “omics” and systems biology technology to understand the host response to infection and identify pathways involved in development of disease. The knowledge that emerges from the research using these technologies will help with the design of novel diagnostics and therapeutics to mitigate disease severities.

SEVERAL APPROACHES TO PATHOGENESIS AND INTERVENTION STRATEGIES STUDIES:

A. Systems biology and mathematical modeling

While ‘wet’ biology will underlie much of Artemis research, computer-based approaches will draw upon advances in systems biology and mathematical modelling. Systems biology is based on the understanding that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. It has been responsible for some of the most important developments in the science of human health and environmental sustainability. The use of predictive, multiscale models enables our scientists to discover new biomarkers for disease and target drugs and other treatments. Systems biology, ultimately, creates the potential for entirely new kinds of exploration, and drives constant innovation in biology-based technology and computation.

B. To achieve its vaccine goals, two development platforms are exploited:

1) The Modified Vaccinia Ankara vector (MVA)

It was derived from Chorioallantois Vaccinia virus Ankara (CVA) through serial passaging in chicken embryo fibroblasts (CEF). From 1968–1985, the Bavarian State Vaccine Institute produced MVA as a human smallpox vaccine. The application of this MVA vaccine was successful to increase the safety of the conventional smallpox vaccination as documented by the absence of any serious adverse event in large field trials involving more than 120,000 individuals in Germany. To deliver heterologous antigens with MVA as vector vaccine, the target gene sequences are transcribed under the highly specific control of poxviral promoters that are only recognized and activated by virus encoded enzymes and transcription factors. Recombinant genes are only transiently expressed after the infection with non-replicating MVA. Since there is no full replication of MVA in infected host cells it can be assumed that full clearance of recombinant virus and recombinant DNA occurs within days after vaccine administration. Despite the transient production of heterologous proteins MVA vector vaccines are able to elicit high levels of antigen-specific humoral and cellular immune responses as demonstrated with the first MVA candidate vaccine delivering influenza antigens (Viruses 2014, 6(7), 2735-2761; doi:10.3390/v6072735)

2) Recombinant proteins

Two protein expression systems have been chosen for their obvious advantages, such as the microbes used are not pathogenic to humans, relatively easy to cultivate, industrially scalable, and yield satisfactory recombinant protein quantities. A major advantage of the protein expression systems is their capacity to fold and post-translationally modify eukaryotic proteins in way similar to mammalian systems. In particular the general glycosylation characteristics of both systems are very close to those of mammals.
a. Leismania tarentolae: The Leishmania expression system stands particularly out because of scalability with high protein yields and cost-effectiveness.
b. Pichia Pastoris: Pichia has become an important host for recombinant protein expression because it offers high cell density, high yields, controllable processes, stability and durability. Pichia pastoris offers a simple, fast, and cost-effective platform that results in high protein expression yield and achieves a high success rate for a variety of recombinant proteins. Pichia Pastoris can grow in media containing only one carbon source and one nitrogen source, making production of recombinant vaccines a cheap undertaking.
In order to enhance immunogenicity of recombinant protein-based vaccines, the purified proteins will be linked to virus-like particles (VLPs). These resemble viruses, but are non-infectious because they contain no viral genetic material. VLPs show potent adjuvant activity enhancing the immunogenicity of weakly immunogenic peptides and proteins.

Vaccines 

Vaccines have been a major advancement with millions of deaths prevented each year by vaccination. However, challenges lay ahead in expanding the availability of existing vaccines to those in most need, and the daunting task to develop of new vaccines for HIV, dengue and tropical viral diseases. We need to find solutions for many infectious disease challenges for which vaccines are not cost-effective such as less common neglected tropical viral infections. These all suggest that, even in resource-rich environments, we still need to make significant investments in combating infectious pathogens through advancements in science and policy.

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