New inactivation method for killed vaccines
Inactivated vaccines, so called dead vaccines, are composed of pathogens that are usually inactivated using toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde. This process is tedious and the chemicals have to be removed again from the preparation. In addition, important protein antigens are often destroyed by the chemical inactivation making the vaccine less effective.
In the Fraunhofer ELVIRA project, the four Fraunhofer institutes IZI, IGB, FEP and IPA took an interdisciplinary approach to develop a physical method that successfully overcomes these problems. Viruses, bacteria, or parasites can now be inactivated in seconds – instead of days or even weeks – and without the addition of toxic substances such as formaldehyde using low-energy electron radiation. At the same time, important antigens in the vaccine are preserved, while the nucleic acids of the viruses and bacteria are reliably destroyed by the electrons.
In a follow-up project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the researchers have developed two prototypes for the automatic inactivation of polio pathogens.