Nanolipoprotein (NLP) technology is a potential breakthrough in vaccine development. Today, many vaccines are based on a single protein derived from a specific pathogen (bacterial, viral, fungal). The idea is that the body "sees" the protein as foreign and mounts an immune response to kill the invader, which keeps the body free from disease. However, this approach to vaccine design has not been as effective as whole-organism vaccines in protecting people from getting sick. NLP technology, pioneered by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists, has the potential to revolutionize vaccine design, constituting a novel next-generation vaccine that can more readily prevent disease and better protect people.
To achieve this, the scientific team has developed methods to mix NLPs with specific pathogen-derived proteins. After the NLP and the proteins are mixed, the proteins anchor to the surface of the NLP. Effectively, the NLP provides a delivery platform for the proteins of interest, and it is this construct that has been used successfully as a vaccine in mice.
In October 2011, LLNL won a $3.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to help develop a new anthrax vaccine. The grant is the first major NIH-funded biodefense grant focused on LLNL's NLP technology.
Photo (Credit: Arthur Friedlander): Color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph shows splenic tissue from a monkey with inhalational anthrax; featured are rod-shaped bacilli (yellow) and an erythrocyte (red).