Penn Medicine researchers develop genital herpes vaccine that works in animals

John McDevitt
October 16, 2019 - 7:45 pm

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania are one step closer to protecting humans against genital herpes. A vaccine has been developed that works in animals, and researchers hope it will one day be tested in humans.

DNA makes RNA and RNA makes protein — remember that from biology class? 

The Penn researchers found a way to administer RNA, or messenger RNA, and make it stable, something that hasn't been done before. 

"So it can stay in our body a long time and it makes a ton of protein, and then a ton of protein makes a ton of antibody responses, a ton of immune responses.  And that was the big discovery," explained Dr. Harvey Friedman, a professor of infectious diseases and the study’s principal investigator.  

He says the vaccine was given to mice and guinea pigs. They were then exposed to genital herpes and after 28 days, most had no trace of the infection after exposure.

"I'm excited. I am a realist," he said. "If we get it to work in humans it would be awesome." 

Friedman says there are many more steps before clinical trials in humans can be done. 

"Once it's in humans, the first studies are small. It's to see how safe it is, and then is it making immune response that we expect," he explained. "And if that looks good, you go into a major trial." 

The study is published in Science Immunology.