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Researchers introduce vaccine against Enterovirus 71

TAIPEI--Taiwanese researchers announced yesterday that they have developed a new vaccine against Enterovirus 71 (EV 71) and will partner with biotech companies to carry out human clinical trials.

The new vaccine, which has proven effective in primates, is expected to offer humans better protection against EV 71, a virulent strain of the virus that causes hand, foot and mouth disease, said Chiang Bor-luen of National Taiwan University Hospital.

“The vaccine has effectively induced antibodies against EV 71 in the Formosan macaque, a primate close to humans,” said Chiang, a professor at the hospital's Department of Pediatrics and Graduate Institute of Clinical Medicine.

The next step is to team up with experienced biotech companies to conduct more studies and clinical trials, Chiang said.

Hu Yu-chen, a professor at National Tsing Hua University's Department of Chemical Engineering, said the new vaccine is safer and has fewer side effects than most other vaccines.

Instead of using inactivated viral cells, Hu said, the new vaccine uses virus-like particles (VLPs) to stimulate immune responses.

“Using genetic engineering, we produced proteins that can be assembled into VLPs, which resemble viruses but do not contain viral genetic material like DNA or RNA.” he said. The technology is already being used to make the human papilloma virus vaccine that can help prevent cervical cancer, he noted.

With the help of biotech companies, the EV 71 vaccine could enter late stage clinical trials in about five years, Hu said.

Taiwan has been actively engaged in the research and development of an EV 71 vaccine since a huge outbreak of foot and mouth disease occurred in 1998, taking 78 lives.

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