August is National Immunization Awareness Month, dedicated to furthering efforts to provide what are oftentimes lifesaving vaccinations to those in need. While media coverage of the flu vaccine has become a seasonal commonplace, vaccines are currently being sought for many modern large-scale epidemics.

One of the greatest global public health risks facing the world today is malaria, an infectious disease transmitted by a parasite transmitted by mosquitoes, that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates as responsible for over one million deaths each year. With estimates as high as five hundred million new cases annually, perhaps the most frightening news is that current climate changes may cause these numbers to rise in the coming years.

"Forty-one percent of the human race lives in areas of high malaria transmission," says Dr. Sylvain Fleury, Chief Scientific Officer at Mymetics, a Swiss vaccine biotech currently developing a vaccine with the potential to control malaria in developing countries. "Because Europe, North America, and North Asia are now significantly colder than regions of high malaria incidence, developed nations have felt immune from the malaria threat, but that sense may soon be upended."

Europe's average temperature has increased by nearly one degree Celsius (approximately 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit) during the past century, and the world's average temperature could rise by another 3.5 degrees Celsius (six degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100. Studies have shown that even such modest temperature increases could extend the proliferation of malaria-bearing mosquitoes. Therefore, as temperatures rise, billions of people could find themselves living in regions of high malaria incidence.

"The best way to prevent the spread of malaria into warming areas of the globe is to find a solution before the situation worsens," says Dr. Fleury. "If we can begin to curb the spread of malaria in high threat areas, the eventual reach of the disease will be seriously limited."

With malaria already gaining hold in areas that had previously eradicated the disease Peru, which eliminated malaria forty years ago, reported sixty-four thousand cases last year alone; America saw 1,337 cases, including eight deaths, as recently as 2002 the importance of developing a vaccine for the disease is becoming more and more urgent.

Professor Odile Mercereau-Puijalon, of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, and a member of the malaria scientific board of the Gates Foundation, wrote that he was "impressed" by Mymetics' scientific approach to vaccine development, and described the company's development-stage vaccine candidates as "exciting." Vaccines typically employ an "antigen," or agent that induces disease-fighting immunity. Mymetics delivers malaria antigens through a particle called a "virosome," which is essentially an empty, non-infectious virus particle.

Virosomes serve as vehicles for introducing the antigen to the immune system, and also provide immune stimulation on their own thereby avoiding the necessity of any adjuvant addition. Furthermore, Mymetics' vaccine design combines both this cutting edge technologic platform and an innovative antigen engineering that minimizes human protein homologies in order to avoid any potential autoimmune developments. Finally, Dr. Fleury stated "We also believe that the vaccine effectiveness will be improved by targeting the different maturation forms of the parasite during the infectious cycle, instead of the classical strategy to target only one of them".

About Dr. Sylvain Fleury, Ph.D., VP, Chief Scientific Officer, Director, Mymetics Corporation

Dr. Fleury was appointed Chief Scientific Officer of Mymetics Corporation in November 2003 and as a Director in January 2006. Prior to that, Dr. Fleury did academic research from 1993 to 2003 on immunology, AIDS, and lentivirus gene therapy in heart transplantation at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (CHUV) in Lausanne, Switzerland. Dr. Fleury obtained his B.Sc. in Microbiology in 1985 from the University of Montreal (Canada), his M.Sc. in Virology in 1988 from the Institut Armand-Frappier (Laval, Canada) and his Ph.D. in 1992 from the Clinical Research Institute of Montreal in Canada with Dr. Rafick Sekaly. During his Ph.D. research, Dr. Fleury worked on the CD4 molecule, which is the primary HIV cellular receptor. Dr. Fleury completed his postgraduate studies in Bethesda (USA) at the NIAID, National Institutes of Health (NIH), with world-renowned immunologist Dr. Ronald N. Germain. Dr. Fleury is the recipient of several awards and prizes and has published articles in several highly regarded scientific journals including Science, Cell, Nature, Nature Medicine and Circulation.

About Mymetics Corporation

Mymetics is a biotechnology company developing prophylactic vaccines that combine innovative antigen engineering, minimal human protein homologies and virosome technology through a license acquired from Pevion Biotech. Mymetics' vaccine approach is focused on eliciting immune protection capable of interfering with late events of pathogen transmission, coupled, most importantly, with early events of pathogen transmission, such as preventing the entry across the mucosal tissues that are very often the primary entry door of most of the pathogens. Virosomes are biosynthetic vesicles representing reconstituted empty influenza virus envelopes that serve as a highly effective vaccine delivery system with intrinsic adjuvant potential. The Company's disease focus presently includes malaria and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

For further information regarding Mymetics and its unique mucosal approach, please visit mymetics.

Source:
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