An international agreement to develop and commercialise the world’s first vaccine to prevent and treat severe gum disease periodontitis, has been announced.


Scientists from the University of Melbourne and CSL Limited, Australia’s leading biopharmaceutical company, in the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Oral Health Science have identified candidate vaccine antigens for the disease.


In a new collaboration CSL and Sanofi Pasteur will fund a program in the University-based CRC to further develop a vaccine to prevent and treat the disease.


Up to 30% of Australian adults suffer from the wide-spread gum disease, which causes gums to bleed and teeth to fall out. The condition has also been linked with heart disease, stroke, adverse pregnancy outcomes, dementia and cancer.


“Periodontitis is a serious disease and dentists face a major challenge in treating it, because most people will not know they have the disease until it’s too late and the infection has progressed to advanced stages,” says Professor Eric Reynolds, AO, CEO of the CRC for Oral Health Science and the Head of The University of Melbourne’s Dental School.


“Traditional treatment for the disease often involves scaling and cleaning, and even surgery in an effort to contain the bacterial infection.”


This new vaccine approach targets the ‘ring leader’ of a group of pathogenic bacteria that cause periodontitis, the bacterium called Porphyromonas gingivalis.


“We are very excited about this novel approach to the disease,” says Professor Reynolds. “It will provide dentists and patients with a specific treatment, which prevents disease progression, rather than managing its symptoms and damaging consequences.”


 “It has taken more than 10 years to develop the vaccine to this stage,” says Dr Andrew Cuthbertson, CSL’s Chief Scientific Officer.  “CSL is pleased to advise of an agreement with Sanofi Pasteur to undertake a funded program to develop a vaccine for the treatment of periodontal disease caused by Porphyromonas gingivalis.”


The vaccine development program involves identifying the bacterial peptides and proteins that trigger the immune response, and using these as the basis of vaccines. The vaccines are being trialled in mouse models of periodontal disease and following a positive response, a vaccine will progress to clinical trials.


If this program is successful, Sanofi Pasteur has an option to an exclusive world-wide license to commercialise the intellectual property associated with these products.