RABYD-VAX combines the complementary scientific expertise of 5 research teams. These are located in three European countries.
University of Leuven (KU Leuven) – Rega Institute – Belgium (coordinator)
RABYD-VAX is coordinated at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven) which is the largest university of Belgium offering a wide variety of high-quality, innovative, interdisciplinary research.
The research group of Professor Johan Neyts is located in the Rega Institute for Medical Research. The Neyts’ laboratory focuses on the development of novel antiviral strategies against a number of RNA viruses. Besides the development of small molecule viral inhibitors, the laboratory developed in recent years a novel vaccine strategy that allows to efficiently launch the genome of the yellow fever vaccine from a bacterial artificial chromosome. This robust technology lays at the basis of this application.
Staff participants: Prof. Johan Neyts, Dr. Kai Dallmeier, Dr. Niraj Mishra, Dr. Lorena Sanchez, Dr. Sapna Sharma, Sarah Debaveye, Katrien Geerts, Dieudonnée Buh Kum, Charlotte Vanderheydt, Dr. Lotte Coelmont, Dr. Pieter Leyssen.
Prof. Johan Neyts
“RABYD-VAX is a very exciting project in which a dedicated consortium of experts aims to develop a vaccine that provides protection against both rabies and yellow fever, two very deadly infections. Such vaccine addresses the needs of many of the poorest people in endemic regions.”
University of Leuven (KU Leuven) – LUVAC – Belgium
The Leuven University Vaccinology Center (LUVAC) was founded in 2013 and is a division of the KU Leuven Research & Development group. Its primary purpose is to bring together the expertise regarding vaccines and vaccinology within the KU Leuven to initiate, collaborate in and execute new research projects regarding vaccinology. Academic as well as governmental and industry‐driven research projects are performed. Apart from research, LUVAC also participates in education regarding vaccinology and policy making on a regional, national and international level.
Prof. Corinne Vandermeulen
“A boat doesn’t go forward if each one is rowing their own way (Swahili proverb). Developing vaccines is all about teamwork and collaboration to make this world a better place for the most vulnerable people of our worldwide society.”
Sciensano – Belgium
Sciensano is a leading player in the field of public health in Belgium. Its partners are leading institutions such as WHO, EFSA, ECDC and OIE. WIV‐ISP monitors, identifies and analyses trends and risks to health, making every effort to provide the authorities and the population with impartial and transparent information. Sciensano runs major programs on quality control and batch release of human vaccines, as well population wide vaccine effectiveness and immunization (coverage) studies. The Sciensano is also a corresponding member of the International Network of Pasteur Institutes (RIIP).
Sciensano is recognized as a central reference laboratory for the diagnosis, detection and surveillance of several pathogens with high importance for public health, including rabies virus (Prof. Dr. Steven Van Gucht). As the National Reference Centre for Rabies, Sciensano is the sole institute in Belgium responsible for diagnosis, serology and surveillance of rabies in man and animal.
The institute has several research projects regarding rabies pathogenesis and rabies antivirals and participates in different clinical trials concerning alternative, shortened and intradermal rabies vaccination protocols in human subjects. The institute is responsible for national preparedness and response to public health threats, including prevention and control of potentially emerging viruses, such as yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis virus.
Staff participants: Prof. Steven Van Gucht, Dr. Marta Romano, Dr. Olivier Denis, Elodie Kip, Pauline Lehebel, Dr. Vanessa Suin, Dr. Sanne Terryn, Hermann Giresse Tima, Aurélie Francart, Sophie Lamoral.
Prof. Steven Van Gucht
“Vaccines are the best way forward to fight infectious diseases. The technology that we will develop holds the promise of saving thousands of lives of children from two of the most deadly viruses known to man.”
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (APHA)- UK
The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA; http://www.defra.gov.uk/apha) is an Executive Agency of the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) with the capability and commitment to deliver a wide range of animal and public health and welfare policies for the UK. This ranges from field activities on farms through to specialist laboratory and scientific services. Research activities underpin the surveillance work and provide robust scientific evidence required by the UK Government and international organizations (EU, OIE, WHO, FAO) to inform policy and control strategies.
The Wildlife Zoonoses and Vector Borne Disease research group (WZVBD) at APHA is headed by Professor Tony Fooks, and is a World Health Organization (WHO) Communicable Disease Surveillance and Response Collaborating Centre for the characterization of rabies and rabies‐related viruses, and is designated an OIE Reference Laboratory for Rabies. The WZVBD group at APHA is one of two laboratories within the UK which is authorized by the European Commission to perform rabies serology testing for the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS). The WZVBD group has tested thousands of serum samples per year since the introduction of PETS in 2000, and therefore has significant experience with virus neutralization tests.
Research activities include a 15‐year history of studies on the pathogenesis and immune response to lyssavirus infection and lyssavirus epidemiology. APHA boasts an extensive archive of virus isolates that require an ACDP3/SAPO4 envelope for investigation, including a repository of lyssaviruses that exceeds 3.200 isolates. Current projects include a rabies antiviral project, lyssavirus heterogeneity and evolutionary studies, passive bat surveillance for European lyssaviruses, surveillance for West Nile virus (WNV) in UK wild birds, and vector competence for arthropod‐borne viruses in mosquitoes. A key area of work within the team is the assessment of new and emerging viruses, and the establishment of outbreak preparedness, with the provision of key information to government. Additionally, the team is actively involved in twinning projects with a number of international rabies laboratories, including China, Georgia, India, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan, transferring technology and providing knowledge management skills in order to increase their knowledge and preparedness for rabies, and to build capability for rabies diagnosis in these countries. In particular, the twinning project with China will lead to the establishment of an OIE Reference Laboratory for rabies in China, to ensure an expanded network of OIE reference laboratories and to act as a focal point by providing technical support to other countries for rabies control in Asia. The role of the team at APHA as a WHO collaborating center for rabies and an OIE reference laboratory for rabies and the lyssaviruses is therefore fundamental to its involvement in the proposed project.
Staff participants: Prof. Anthony Fooks, Dr. Ashley Banyard, Dr. Maria Fernandez, Denise Marston, Dr. Guaghui Wu, David Selden, Victoria Salter, Samantha Watson, Colin Birch.
Prof. Anthony Fooks
“The development of a multivalent vaccine that is cheap and can be administered as a single dose that protects children against rabies and other neglected tropical diseases is long overdue, especially in parts of the world where health resources are limited. The proposed novel technology should overcome many of the challenges associated with getting vital pre- and post-exposure vaccines for rabies to those who urgently need it in rabies-endemic areas and may revolutionise our battle to reduce human deaths from this horrific disease.”
Biomedical Primate Research Center (BPRC) – the Netherlands
The Biomedical Primate Research Centre (BPRC) is Europe’s largest independent non‐profit primate research and breeding facility with socially‐housed colonies of Macaca mulatta (rhesus macaques), fully MHC‐typed (A, B, DR), Macaca fascicularis (cynomolgus macaques) and Callithrix jacchus (common marmoset). BPRC provides expertise in the modeling of human viral diseases and vaccine‐induced immunity in non‐human primates (NHP).
The department of Virology has over 25 years’ experience in evaluation of vaccine candidates in NHP, including HIV, HCV, influenza virus, and flaviviruses like West Nile virus, dengue virus and zika virus. Key points in the vaccine evaluation are monitoring of mucosal and systemic immune responses, and safety evaluation.
Partner BPRC will be responsible for the pre‐clinical evaluation of vaccines in non‐human primates. They will assess the safety and protective capacity of rabies‐YFV and rabies‐JEV vaccines developed in the RABYD‐VAX consortium.
Staff participants: Dr. Ernst Verschoor, Dr. Willy Bogers, Dr. Babs Verstrepen, Zahra Fagrouch
Dr. Ernst Verschoor
“The BPRC contributes to the development of novel vaccines against important human viral infections like rabies and yellow fever. BPRC is committed to using non-human primates for human health research only where there are no suitable alternatives.”