Funding: EU – Horizon 2020
Full title: Diagnostic, therapy and prevention before cytomegaloviral infection
The human cytomegalovirus (CMV) is one of the most important pathogens in humans and triggers as an opportunistic pathogen in certain high-risk situations, e.g. under drug-induced immunosuppression, after bone marrow or organ transplantation and during pregnancy, it causes severe, sometimes life-threatening infections. CMV infection is the most common infection-related risk for neonatal defects today. Currently, there is no vaccine available and decades of experience with anti-herpesviral therapies have not been able to solve the problems of low tolerability and viral resistance.
The established, reliable diagnostics (genome PCR detection, antigenemia test, and serology) are limited in that they are not predictive of viral load and about the CMV-associated pathogenesis. This limitation is particularly relevant to the major problem of CMV infection during pregnancy about viral transmission to the unborn child and the likelihood of a pathogenic course. In addition, there is an urgent medical need for improved CMV treatment strategies, pharmacologic prophylaxis and test strategies.
The cooperating partners are aiming a targeted knowledge gain in diagnostic, therapy and prevention. Therefore, antibody signatures are a target for CMV disease and transmission prediction. Serological and molecular test strategies can improve the early diagnosis and specification of viral load. Specific CDK-inhibitors are designed for a selective inhibition of viral CDK-dependent processes. Finally, for the prevention before infection, the development of a vaccine is in focus.
Within the DeeP-CMV project, the Wagner Lab of the University of Regensburg develops in cooperation with Sirion Biotech different adenoviral, MVA and mRNA based vectors. Development shall comprise various antigen designs addressing induction of T- and B-cell responses as well as various vector optimizations. Newly generated vectors are characterized in in vitro and in vivo models.
In addition, the development of a RT-qPCR based test is supported for a more detailed and efficient testing compared to conventional methods. The higher sensitivity of RT-qPCR compared to the conventional ELISpot would also make it possible to test newborns.
Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU, Germany) – project coordinator
University of Regensburg (Germany)
Virion/Serion (Würzburg, Germany)
Mikrogen GmbH (Germany)
Sirion Biotech GmbH (Germany)
Lead Discovery Center (LDC, Germany)