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. SupraVacc therefore proposes a new design approach for the development of fully synthetic molecular vaccines. My team will synthesize 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.

Members involved: Christian Merfels (PhD student), Nicole Hutter (PhD student), Tino Mackiol (PhD student), Marius Thomas (PhD student), Dr. Adele Gabba (PostDoc).


Link to the press release (ENG, DE) of the University of Mainz.
Link to the press release of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate.