(Plasmid) launching a new vaccine platform

Vaccine Insights 2023; 2(1), 9–13

DOI: 10.18609/vac.2023.003

Published: 27 February
Kai Dallmeier, Hanne Callewaert

Charlotte Barker, Editor, Vaccine Insights, talks to Kai Dallmeier, Associate Professor, KU Leuven, and Hanne Callewaert, CEO, Astrivax

Kai Dallmeier, PhD, is Associate Professor of Virology at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven), Belgium, and leads the Molecular Vaccinology & Vaccine Discovery (MVVD) group at the KU Leuven Rega Institute. In a multidisciplinary approach and using the live-attenuated yellow fever vaccine as platform, he and his team develop vaccines for emerging infections (such as Zika, Ebola and COVID-19) as well as therapeutic vaccines (for instance for chronic hepatitis B). Thermostable and easy-to-manufacture plasmid-launched vaccines aim to tackle vaccine shortages and unmet public health needs faced particularly by people living in LMIC. For deeper mechanistic insight into virus replication and virus-induced disease, this translational work on vaccines is complemented by the study of viral infections and pathogenesis in a range of cell culture and animal models.

Hanne Callewaert is co-founder and CEO of Astrivax. She has global industry experience in large pharmaceutical companies such as GSK Vaccine, as well as smaller biotechs. Before co-founding Astrivax, she was Entrepreneur in residence at KU Leuven and COO at ophthalmic drug developer Oxurion. Hanne has strong experience in development of commercial-, late- or early-stage vaccines, monoclonal antibodies, peptides, and small molecules. She blends regulatory affairs, drug, and vaccine development expertise with business and corporate development., with a proven track record of building and leading diverse teams. 

A new vaccine platform, plasmid-launched live attenuated vaccine (PLLAV), hopes to combine the efficacy of a live attenuated vaccine with the thermostable properties of a DNA plasmid. To find out more, we caught up with Kai Dallmeier, one of the original inventors of the technology, and Hanne Callewaert, CEO of Astrivax, the spin-off company commercializing the platform.