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Patexia Research
Patent No. US 08834888
Issue Date Sep 16, 2014
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Patent 08834888 - Adjuvanting meningococcal factor H binding protein > Description

Description

'\n\nCROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a Continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 13/403,865, filed Feb. 23, 2012, which is a Continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 13/260,534, filed Nov. 29, 2011, which is the National Stage of International Patent Application of PCT/IB2010/000733, filed Mar. 24, 2010, which claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/162,999, filed Mar. 24, 2009, each of which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

\n\n\nSUBMISSION OF SEQUENCE LISTING AS ASCII TEXT FILE

The content of the following submission on ASCII text file is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety: a computer readable form (CRF) of the Sequence Listing (file name: 223002109902SeqList.txt, date recorded: Feb. 13, 2013, size: 73 KB).

TECHNICAL FIELD

This invention is in the field of meningococcal vaccines, in particular those containing fHBP antigen.

BACKGROUND ART

Neisseria meningitidis (meningococcus) is a Gram-negative spherical bacterium. Current meningococcal vaccines are also based on capsular saccharides. These include monovalent serogroup C conjugate vaccines and 4-valent conjugate mixtures for serogroups A, C, W135 and Y. There is currently no useful vaccine authorised for general use against serogroup B (‘MenB’).

One antigen which has been proposed for use in immunising against MenB is the factor H binding protein (fHBP). This antigen has also been called protein ‘741’ (SEQ IDs 2535 & 2536 in ref. 34), ‘NMB1870’, ‘GNA1870’ [refs. 1-3], T2086′, IP2086′ or ‘ORF2086’ [4-6]. The protein has been well studied. It is naturally a lipoprotein and is expressed across all meningococcal serogroups. The structure of fHbp\'s C-terminal immunodominant domain (‘fHbpC’) has been determined by NMR [7]. This part of the protein forms an eight-stranded β-barrel, whose strands are connected by loops of variable lengths. The barrel is preceded by a short α-helix and by a flexible N-terminal tail.

The fHBP antigen falls into three distinct variants [8] and it has been found that serum raised against a given family is bactericidal within the same family, but is not active against strains which express one of the other two families i.e. there is intra-family cross-protection, but not inter-family cross-protection. Thus reference 8 proposes to combine different variants of fHBP into a single vaccine composition, thereby increasing strain coverage, either as a mixture of separate proteins or as a fusion protein of the different variants (the latter being ‘tandem proteins’).

Reference 9 also reports a fHBP tandem protein (pages 18-19 of reference 9). This tandem protein was purified and mixed with aluminium phosphate as an adjuvant, but it is reported not to adsorb well to the adjuvant. Good adsorption of the antigens is desirable, and it has been found that such mixed fHBP proteins readily adsorb if aluminium hydroxide is used as an adjuvant instead.

A problem when using aluminium hydroxide as an adjuvant, however, is that it can degrade certain antigens. For instance, reference 10 reports that it can hydrolyse H. influenzae type B conjugate vaccines, even at low temperatures, thus leading to reduced efficacy. Similarly, hydrolysis of S. typhi Vi capsular saccharide in the presence of aluminium hydroxide is reported in reference 11. Thus it can be desirable to formulate antigens using an adjuvant based on aluminium phosphate, particularly if the adjuvanted vaccine may be mixed (either during manufacture or at the time of use) with an antigen that may be susceptible to damage by an aluminium hydroxide e.g. a conjugated bacterial capsular saccharide.

Thus there is a need to provide formulations of fHBP, and in particular of multiple fHBP variants, in which the fHBP(s) is/are adsorbed to an adjuvant but which do not require aluminium hydroxide.

\n\n\nDISCLOSURE OF THE INVENTION

The inventors have identified general techniques for achieving efficient adsorption of fHBP proteins to aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvants. The use of aluminium hydroxyphosphate can avoid the need to use aluminium hydroxide, and the inventors\' techniques avoid the inefficient adsorption described in reference 9. The adsorption techniques are particularly useful for compositions which include multiple fHBP variants.

In a first aspect of the invention, fHBP adsorption takes place at a pH which is equal to or below the aluminium hydroxyphosphate\'s point of zero charge (PZC). For a given aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant, therefore, an aqueous medium (e.g. buffer) would be selected with a pH equal to or below the adjuvant\'s PZC. Conversely, for a given pH an aluminium hydroxyphosphate would be selected that has the same or a higher PZC. This selection of pH and PZC can give immunogenic compositions in which fHBP is stably adsorbed to an aluminium hydroxyphosphate.

In a second aspect, a fHBP and an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant are selected such that the fHBP has an isoelectric point (pI) within the range of 5.0 to 7.0 (inclusive) and the adjuvant\'s PZC is selected within the same range. By ensuring this close match of antigen and adjuvant characteristics it is possible to obtain stable adsorbed compositions even if the adsorption pH is above the adjuvant\'s PZC. Stable adsorption is facilitated by the presence of a buffer which can maintain pH also in the range of 5.0 to 7.0.

In a third aspect, if a fHBP has an isoelectric point above an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant\'s PZC then a buffer is added to bring the pH to within 1.2 pH units of the PZC.

Thus, for the first aspect, the invention provides a method for adsorbing a meningococcal fHBP antigen to an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant, wherein adsorption takes place at a pH which is equal to or below the aluminium hydroxyphosphate\'s point of zero charge. The adsorbed fHBP antigen can be used as an immunogen. The adsorption can be performed in various ways. Mixing of fHBP antigen, aluminium hydroxyphosphate and a buffer can occur in any suitable order, either by combining all three components separately or by pre-mixing two components and then mixing the pre-mix with the third component.

The invention also provides an immunogenic composition comprising a meningococcal fHBP antigen and an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant, wherein the aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant has a point of zero charge which is higher than the immunogenic composition\'s pH.

For the second aspect, the invention provides a method for adsorbing a meningococcal fHBP antigen to an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant, wherein (i) the meningococcal fHBP antigen has an isoelectric point between 5.0 and 7.0, (ii) the aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant has a point of zero charge between 5.0 and 7.0, and (iii) adsorption of the fHBP antigens takes place at a pH between 5.0 and 7.0.

The invention also provides an immunogenic composition comprising a meningococcal fHBP antigen adsorbed to an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant, wherein (i) the meningococcal fHBP antigen has an isoelectric point between 5.0 and 7.0, and (ii) the aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant has a point of zero charge between 5.0 and 7.0. The composition typically includes a buffer to maintain pH in the range of 5.0 to 7.0.

For the third aspect, the invention provides a method for adsorbing a meningococcal fHBP antigen to an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant, wherein (i) the meningococcal fHBP antigen has an isoelectric point which is greater than the adjuvant\'s point of zero charge and (ii) adsorption takes place at a pH which is within 1.2 pH units of the adjuvant\'s point of zero charge. The pH during adsorption is preferably achieved by including a buffer which maintains the pH within 1.2 pH units of the adjuvant\'s point of zero charge.

The invention also provides an immunogenic composition comprising a meningococcal fHBP antigen adsorbed to an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant, wherein (i) the meningococcal fHBP antigen has an isoelectric point which is greater than the adjuvant\'s point of zero charge and (ii) the composition has a pH which is within 1.2 pH units of the adjuvant\'s point of zero charge. The composition may include a buffer which maintains the pH within 1.2 pH units of the adjuvant\'s PZC.

The invention is particularly useful in relation to compositions which include more than one variant of fHBP. As mentioned above, such compositions have previously been reported not to adsorb well to aluminium adjuvants with phosphate groups.

Thus the invention provides a method for adsorbing two different meningococcal fHBP antigens to an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant, wherein adsorption of both of the fHBP antigens takes place at a pH which is equal to or below the aluminium hydroxyphosphate\'s point of zero charge. The adsorbed fHBP antigens can be used for broad spectrum meningococcal immunisation. Mixing of fHBP antigens and aluminium hydroxyphosphate (and a buffer) can occur in any suitable order.

The invention also provides an immunogenic composition comprising two different meningococcal fHBP antigens, both of which are adsorbed to aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant. The composition typically includes a buffer to control pH during and/or after adsorption.

The invention also provides an immunogenic composition comprising two different meningococcal fHBP antigens and an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant, wherein the aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant has a point of zero charge which is higher than the immunogenic composition\'s pH.

The invention also provides a method for adsorbing two different meningococcal fHBP antigens to an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant, wherein (i) both of the meningococcal fHBP antigens have an isoelectric point between 5.0 and 7.0, (ii) the aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant has a point of zero charge between 5.0 and 7.0, and (iii) adsorption of both of the fHBP antigens takes place at a pH between 5.0 and 7.0. Adsorption may take place in the presence of a buffer.

The invention also provides an immunogenic composition comprising two different meningococcal fHBP antigens, both of which are adsorbed to aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant, wherein (i) both of the meningococcal fHBP antigens have an isoelectric point between 5.0 and 7.0, (ii) the aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant has a point of zero charge between 5.0 and 7.0. The composition typically includes a buffer to maintain pH in the range of 5.0 to 7.0.

The invention also provides a method for adsorbing two different meningococcal fHBP antigens to an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant, wherein (i) the meningococcal fHBP antigens both have isoelectric points which are greater than the adjuvant\'s point of zero charge and (ii) adsorption of each antigen takes place at a pH which is within 1.2 pH units of the adjuvant\'s point of zero charge. The pH during adsorption is preferably achieved by including a buffer which maintains the pH within 1.2 pH units of the adjuvant\'s point of zero charge.

The invention also provides an immunogenic composition comprising two different meningococcal fHBP antigens, both adsorbed to aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant, wherein (i) each meningococcal fHBP antigen has an isoelectric point which is greater than the adjuvant\'s point of zero charge and (ii) the composition has a pH which is within 1.2 pH units of the adjuvant\'s point of zero charge.

The invention also provides an immunogenic composition prepared by any of the above methods.

In compositions of the invention, the or each fHBP antigen is preferably at least 85% adsorbed, as described in more detail below.

Factor H Binding Protein(s)

Compositions of the invention include at least one meningococcal factor H binding protein (fHBP). Where a composition includes two different fHBPs these are preferably different variants as disclosed in reference 8. Different fHBPs will generate distinct immune responses which are not fully cross-reactive and which provide a broader spectrum of strain coverage against meningococci.

Where a composition comprises a single fHBP variant, it may include one of the following:\n

    • (a) a first polypeptide comprising a first amino acid sequence, where the first amino acid sequence comprises an amino acid sequence (i) having at least a % sequence identity to SEQ ID NO: 1 and/or (ii) consisting of a fragment of at least x contiguous amino acids from SEQ ID NO: 1;
    • (b) a second polypeptide, comprising a second amino acid sequence, where the second amino acid sequence comprises an amino acid sequence (i) having at least b % sequence identity to SEQ ID NO: 2 and/or (ii) consisting of a fragment of at least y contiguous amino acids from SEQ ID NO: 2;

(c) a third polypeptide, comprising a third amino acid sequence, where the third amino acid sequence comprises an amino acid sequence (i) having at least c % sequence identity to SEQ ID NO: 3 and/or (ii) consisting of a fragment of at least z contiguous amino acids from SEQ ID NO: 3.

Where a composition comprises two different meningococcal fHBP antigens, it may include a combination of: (i) a first and second polypeptide as defined above; (ii) a first and third polypeptide as defined above; or (iii) a second and third polypeptide as defined above. A combination of a first and third polypeptide is preferred. A combination in which each of the two different meningococcal fHBP antigens has a pI between 5.0 and 7.0 is preferred, and in particular when they both have a pI in the range of 5.0 to 6.0 or in the range 5.2 to 6.2.

Where a composition comprises two different meningococcal fHBP antigens, although these may share some sequences in common, the first, second and third polypeptides have different fHBP amino acid sequences.

A polypeptide comprising the first amino acid sequence will, when administered to a subject, elicit an antibody response comprising antibodies that bind to the wild-type meningococcus protein having nascent amino acid sequence SEQ ID NO: 20 (MC58). In some embodiments some or all of these antibodies do not bind to the wild-type meningococcus protein having nascent amino acid sequence SEQ ID NO: 21 or to the wild-type meningococcus protein having nascent amino acid sequence SEQ ID NO: 22.

A polypeptide comprising the second amino acid sequence will, when administered to a subject, elicit an antibody response comprising antibodies that bind to the wild-type meningococcus protein having nascent amino acid sequence SEQ ID NO: 21 (2996). In some embodiments some or all of these antibodies do not bind to the wild-type meningococcus protein having nascent amino acid sequence SEQ ID NO: 20 or to the wild-type meningococcus protein having nascent amino acid sequence SEQ ID NO: 22.

A polypeptide comprising the third amino acid sequence will, when administered to a subject, elicit an antibody response comprising antibodies that bind to the wild-type meningococcus protein having nascent amino acid sequence SEQ ID NO: 22 (M1239). In some embodiments some or all of these antibodies do not bind to the wild-type meningococcus protein having nascent amino acid sequence SEQ ID NO: 20 or to the wild-type meningococcus protein having nascent amino acid sequence SEQ ID NO: 21.

In some embodiments the fragment of at least x contiguous amino acids from SEQ ID NO: 1 is not also present within SEQ ID NO: 2 or within SEQ ID NO: 3. Similarly, the fragment of at least y contiguous amino acids from SEQ ID NO: 2 might not also be present within SEQ ID NO: 1 or within SEQ ID NO: 3. Similarly, the fragment of at least z contiguous amino acids from SEQ ID NO: 3 might not also be present within SEQ ID NO: 1 or within SEQ ID NO: 2. In some embodiments, when said fragment from one of SEQ ID NOs: 1 to 3 is aligned as a contiguous sequence against the other two SEQ ID NOs, the identity between the fragment and each of the other two SEQ ID NOs is less than 75% e.g. less than 70%, less than 65%, less than 60%, etc.

The value of a is at least 80 e.g. 82, 84, 86, 88, 90, 92, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99 or more. The value of b is at least 80 e.g. 82, 84, 86, 88, 90, 92, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99 or more. The value of c is at least 80 e.g. 82, 84, 86, 88, 90, 92, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99 or more. The values of a, b and c may be the same or different. In some embodiments, a b and c are identical.

The value of x is at least 7 e.g. 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 120, 140, 160, 180, 200, 225, 250). The value of y is at least 7 e.g. 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 120, 140, 160, 180, 200, 225, 250). The value of z is at least 7 e.g. 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 120, 140, 160, 180, 200, 225, 250). The values of x, y and z may be the same or different. In some embodiments, x y and z are identical.

Fragments preferably comprise an epitope from the respective SEQ ID NO: sequence. Other useful fragments lack one or more amino acids (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 15, 20, 25 or more) from the C-terminus and/or one or more amino acids (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 15, 20, 25 or more) from the N-terminus of the respective SEQ ID NO: while retaining at least one epitope thereof.

Amino acid sequences used with the invention may, compared to SEQ ID NOs: 1, 2 or 3, include one or more (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, etc.) conservative amino acid replacements i.e. replacements of one amino acid with another which has a related side chain. Genetically-encoded amino acids are generally divided into four families: (1) acidic i.e. aspartate, glutamate; (2) basic i.e. lysine, arginine, histidine; (3) non-polar i.e. alanine, valine, leucine, isoleucine, proline, phenylalanine, methionine, tryptophan; and (4) uncharged polar i.e. glycine, asparagine, glutamine, cysteine, serine, threonine, tyrosine. Phenylalanine, tryptophan, and tyrosine are sometimes classified jointly as aromatic amino acids. In general, substitution of single amino acids within these families does not have a major effect on the biological activity. The polypeptides may have one or more (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, etc.) single amino acid deletions relative to a reference sequence. The polypeptides may also include one or more (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, etc.) insertions (e.g. each of 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 amino acids) relative to a reference sequence.

A useful first amino acid sequence has at least 85% identity (e.g. >95% or 100%) to SEQ ID NO: 1. Another useful first amino acid sequence has at least 95% identity (e.g. >98% or 100%) to SEQ ID NO: 4. Another useful first amino acid sequence has at least 95% identity (e.g. >98% or 100%) to SEQ ID NO: 5.

A useful third amino acid sequence has at least 85% identity (e.g. >95% or 100%) to SEQ ID NO: 3. Another useful third amino acid sequence has at least 95% identity (e.g. >98% or 100%) to SEQ ID NO: 6.

Combinations comprising a mixture of first and third sequences based around SEQ ID NOs: 4 and 6 (or their close variants) are particularly useful. Another useful combination comprises a mixture of first and third sequences based around a mixture of SEQ ID NOs: 5 and 6 (or their close variants). Thus a composition may comprise a polypeptide comprising amino acid sequence SEQ ID NO: 23 and a polypeptide comprising amino acid sequence SEQ ID NO: 25.

Where a composition includes two meningococcal fHBP antigens, this may be in a bivalent fHBP composition, or there may be more than two different fHBP antigens e.g. in a trivalent or tetravalent fHBP composition.

In some embodiments fHBP polypeptide(s) are lipidated e.g. at a N-terminus cysteine. In other embodiments, however, fHBP polypeptide(s) are not lipidated. For lipidated fHBPs, lipids attached to cysteines will usually include palmitoyl residues e.g. as tripalmitoyl-5-glyceryl-cysteine (Pam3Cys), dipalmitoyl-5-glyceryl cysteine (Pam2Cys), N-acetyl (dipalmitoyl-5-glyceryl cysteine), etc. Examples of mature lipidated fHBP sequences are SEQ ID NO: 23 (including SEQ ID NO: 4), SEQ ID NO: 24 (including SEQ ID NO: 5), and SEQ ID NO: 25 (including SEQ ID NO: 6).

Administration of a fHBP will preferably elicit antibodies which can bind to a meningococcal polypeptide consisting of amino acid sequence SEQ ID NO: 1, 2 or 3. Advantageous fHBP antigens for use with the invention can elicit bactericidal anti-meningococcal antibodies after administration to a subject.

The total amount of a fHBP polypeptide will usually be between 1 and 500n/dose e.g. between 60 and 200 μg/dose or between 120 and 500 m/ml. An amount of 20, 40, 50, 60, 80, 100 or 200 μg for each fHBP polypeptide is typical in a human vaccine dose. Thus a vaccine may be formulated to include this amount of each fHBP(s).

Where a composition comprises different meningococcal fHBP antigens, these may be present as separate polypeptides as described above (e.g. a first and second polypeptide) or they may be present as part of a single ‘hybrid’ polypeptide i.e. where at least two (e.g. 2, 3, 4, 5, or more) fHBP antigens are expressed as a single polypeptide chain, as disclosed for meningococcal antigens in reference 12.

A hybrid polypeptide may comprise two or three of the following: a first amino acid sequence as defined above; a second amino acid sequence as defined above; and/or a third amino acid sequence as defined above.

Hybrid polypeptides can be represented by the formula NH2-A-{-X-L-}n—B—COOH, wherein: X is a first, second or third amino acid sequence as defined above; L is an optional linker amino acid sequence; A is an optional N-terminal amino acid sequence; B is an optional C-terminal amino acid sequence; n is an integer of 2 or more (e.g. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, etc.). Usually n is 2 or 3, and at least two of a first, second and third amino acid sequence are present.

If a —X— moiety has a leader peptide sequence in its wild-type form, this may be included or omitted in the hybrid protein. In some embodiments, the leader peptides will be deleted except for that of the —X— moiety located at the N-terminus of the hybrid protein i.e. the leader peptide of X1 will be retained, but the leader peptides of X2 . . . Xn will be omitted. This is equivalent to deleting all leader peptides and using the leader peptide of X1 as moiety -A-.

For each n instances of {-X-L-}, linker amino acid sequence -L- may be present or absent. For instance, when n=2 the hybrid may be NH2—X1-L1-X2-L2-COOH, NH2—X1—X2—COOH, NH2—X1-L1-X2—COOH, NH2—X1—X2-L2-COOH, etc. Linker amino acid sequence(s)-L- will typically be short (e.g. 20 or fewer amino acids i.e. 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1). Examples comprise short peptide sequences which facilitate cloning, poly-glycine linkers (i.e. comprising Glyn where n=2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 or more), and histidine tags (i.e. His, where n=3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, or more). Other suitable linker amino acid sequences will be apparent to those skilled in the art. A useful linker is GSGGGG (SEQ ID NO: 15) or GSGSGGGG (SEQ ID NO:16), with the Gly-Ser dipeptide being formed from a BamH1 restriction site, thus aiding cloning and manipulation, and the (Gly)4 tetrapeptide being a typical poly-glycine linker. Another suitable linker, particularly for use as the final Ln is a Leu-Glu dipeptide.

-A- is an optional N-terminal amino acid sequence. This will typically be short (e.g. 40 or fewer amino acids i.e. 40, 39, 38, 37, 36, 35, 34, 33, 32, 31, 30, 29, 28, 27, 26, 25, 24, 23, 22, 21, 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1). Examples include leader sequences to direct protein trafficking, or short peptide sequences which facilitate cloning or purification (e.g. histidine tags i.e. Hisn where n=3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 or more). Other suitable N-terminal amino acid sequences will be apparent to those skilled in the art. If X1 lacks its own N-terminus methionine, -A- is preferably an oligopeptide (e.g. with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8 amino acids) which provides a N-terminus methionine e.g. Met-Ala-Ser, or a single Met residue.

-B- is an optional C-terminal amino acid sequence. This will typically be short (e.g. 40 or fewer amino acids i.e. 39, 38, 37, 36, 35, 34, 33, 32, 31, 30, 29, 28, 27, 26, 25, 24, 23, 22, 21, 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1). Examples include sequences to direct protein trafficking, short peptide sequences which facilitate cloning or purification (e.g. comprising histidine tags i.e. Hisn where n=3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 or more, such as SEQ ID NO: 17), or sequences which enhance protein stability. Other suitable C-terminal amino acid sequences will be apparent to those skilled in the art.

Aluminium Hydroxyphosphate Adjuvants and Adsorption

Compositions of the invention include an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant. Such adjuvants are often referred to for convenience as “aluminium phosphate†[13], although hydroxyphosphates can be distinguished from strict AlPO4 by the presence of hydroxyl groups. For example, an IR spectrum band at 3164 cm−1 (e.g. when heated to 200° C.) indicates the presence of structural hydroxyls. The aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant may contain a small amount of sulfate (i.e. aluminium hydroxyphosphate sulfate) and may also include sodium and/or chloride ions [14]. The adjuvant may be obtained by precipitation.

Aluminium hydroxyphosphate is not a stoichiometric compound and its hydroxyl and phosphate composition depends on precipitation reactants and conditions. This hydroxyl/phosphate composition affects the adjuvant\'s point of zero charge (PZC; the pH at which a surface has zero net charge). The PZC is inversely related to the degree of substitution of phosphate for hydroxyl (the P/Al molar ratio). Substitution of phosphate anions for hydroxyl anions lowers the PZC. Thus the PZC can be altered by changing the concentration of free phosphate ions in solution (more phosphate=more acidic PZC) or by adding a buffer such as a histidine buffer (makes PZC more basic). Aluminium hydroxyphosphates used with the invention generally have a PZC of between 5.0 and 6.6 e.g. between 5.4 and 6.2.

The P/Al molar ratio of an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant will generally be between 0.3 and 1.2, preferably between 0.8 and 1.2, or between 0.85 and 1.0, and more preferably about 0.9. A P/Al molar ratio of at least 0.5 can provide an adjuvant with better aging properties.

The aluminium hydroxyphosphate will generally be amorphous (i.e. amorphous to X-rays). It will generally be particulate (e.g. plate-like morphology as seen in transmission electron micrographs). Typical diameters of the plates are 10-100 nm, and these form aggregates sized 0.5-20 μm (e.g. about 1-10 μm). Adsorptive capacities of between 0.7-1.5 mg protein per mg Al+++ at pH 7.4 have been reported for aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvants.

A typical adjuvant is amorphous aluminium hydroxyphosphate with P/Al molar ratio between 0.84 and 0.92, and this adjuvant may be included at 0.6 mg Al3+/ml.

The concentration of Al+++ in a composition for administration to a patient is preferably less than 5 mg/ml e.g. ≦4 mg/ml, ≦3 mg/ml, ≦2 mg/ml, ≦1 mg/ml, etc. A preferred range is between 0.2 and 1 mg/ml. A maximum Al+++ concentration of 0.85 mg/dose is preferred.

At least 85% (by weight) of a fHBP in a composition of the invention is adsorbed to aluminium hydroxyphosphate e.g. ≧90%, ≧95% or even 100%. The proportion of adsorbed fHBP can be controlled by altering salt concentration and/or pH during formulation e.g. in general, a higher NaCl concentration can decrease fHBP\'s adsorption. The amount of adsorption for any formulation will depend on a combination of parameters including the adjuvant\'s PZC, the salt concentration and pH during formulation, the adjuvant concentration, the antigen concentration and the antigen\'s pI. The impact of each of these parameters on adsorption can be readily assessed. The degree of adsorption can be determined by comparing the total amount of fHBP antigen in a composition (e.g. measured before adsorption occurs, or measured by desorbing adsorbed antigen) to the amount which remains in the supernatant after centrifugation (e.g. see chapter 4 of ref. 15). The absence of detectable antigen in the supernatant after centrifugation indicates that total adsorption has occurred i.e. all of the fHBP is in the pellet, which contains the insoluble adjuvant and its adsorbed content.

It is known to use mixtures of different aluminium salts in a single vaccine e.g. see reference 16. Although adjuvants including both aluminium hydroxyphosphate and hydroxide can be used with fHBP, it is preferred that a composition should not include any aluminium hydroxide adjuvant because, as described above, it can degrade certain antigens which may be admixed with the fHBP (in particular, conjugated bacterial capsular saccharides).

For the first aspect, the inventors have found that fHBP proteins can be efficiently adsorbed to an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant by ensuring that adsorption takes place at a pH which is equal to or below the adjuvant\'s PZC. Thus an adjuvant can be chosen with a PZC equal to or above a desired formulation pH, or else a pH can be chosen equal to or below a desired adjuvant\'s PZC. Adjuvant and antigen are combined under these conditions and adsorption is allowed to occur. The pH should not be so low as to prevent adsorption or to irreversibly denature the fHBP. Thus adsorption ideally occurs within 2 pH units (ideally within 1.2 pH units) of the PZC.

For the second aspect, the inventors have found that fHBP proteins can be efficiently adsorbed to an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant by using a meningococcal fHBP antigen with an isoelectric point between 5.0 and 7.0 and an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant with a point of zero charge also between 5.0 and 7.0. Adsorption takes place at a pH between 5.0 and 7.0, and pH may be maintained (before, during, and/or after adsorption) by including a buffer to maintain pH in the range of 5.0 to 7.0. Within the pH range of 5.0 and 7.0, a preferred sub-range is 5.0 to 6.0. The second aspect is not suitable for all fHBPs as some (e.g. SEQ ID NO: 20) have a pI outside the required range, but an appropriate fHBP can readily be selected.

The isoelectric point of a fHBP may be determined empirically by a technique such as isoelectric focusing. More conveniently, however, the isoelectric point is a theoretical isoelectric point. This may be calculated using pKa values of amino acids described in reference 17 e.g. using the relevant ExPASy tool [18]. For instance, nascent amino acid sequence SEQ ID NO: 20 has a predicted pI of 7.72 whereas SEQ ID NOs: 21 and 22 have predicted pis of 5.87 and 6.15. Mature sequences SEQ ID NOs: 23, 24 and 25 (comprising SEQ ID NOs: 4, 5 and 6, respectively) all have a predicted pI in the relevant range: 5.46, 5.72 and 5.86, respectively. A correction for a blocked N-terminus amine (e.g. when lipidated) reduces the pI by about 0.1 but SEQ ID NOs: 23, 24 and 25 still have predicted pIs in the range from 5.0 to 6.0. Combinations where each different meningococcal fHBP antigen has a pI between 5.0 and 7.0 are preferred, and in particular when they both have a pI in the range of 5.0 to 6.0 or in the range 5.2 to 6.2.

A useful combination of fHBP antigens with pIs in the appropriate range may comprise a mixture of first and third sequences based around SEQ ID NOs: 4 and 6 (or their close variants) or a mixture of first and third sequences based around a mixture of SEQ ID NOs: 5 and 6 (or their close variants). Further details of such antigen pairings are provided above. For example, a combination of SEQ ID NOs: 23 and 25 is particularly useful, and these two proteins may be lipidated (as discussed above).

For the third aspect, the inventors have found that a meningococcal fHBP antigen with a pI greater than an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant\'s PZC can be efficiently adsorbed by ensuring that adsorption takes place at a pH within 1.2 pH units of the PZC. Adsorption may take place at a pH above or below the adjuvant\'s PZC, although the pH should not be so extreme as to irreversibly denature the fHBP. The pH during adsorption is preferably achieved by including a buffer which maintains the pH within 1.2 pH units of the adjuvant\'s PZC. Where a pH is within 1.2 pH units, it may be within 1 pH unit or less e.g. within 0.8 pH unit, within 0.6 pH unit, within or 0.5 pH unit.

Order of Mixing

As mentioned above, the invention provides a method for adsorbing a meningococcal fHBP antigen to an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant. Mixing of fHBP antigen(s), aluminium hydroxyphosphate and any buffer can occur in any suitable order, either by combining all components separately or by pre-mixing two components and then mixing the pre-mix with the third component.

Thus, for example, in one embodiment the invention provides a process for preparing an immunogenic composition comprising a meningococcal fHBP antigen, comprising a step of combining a meningococcal fHBP antigen and an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant, wherein: (i) the aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant has a point of zero charge; and (ii) the combining step occurs at a pH lower than the point of zero charge such that the fHBP antigen adsorbs to the adjuvant.

In another embodiment, the invention provides a process for preparing an immunogenic composition comprising a meningococcal fHBP antigen, comprising a step of combining a meningococcal fHBP antigen and an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant, wherein: (i) the aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant has a point of zero charge; and (ii) the composition has a pH lower than the point of zero charge, such that the fHBP antigen adsorbs to the adjuvant.

In another embodiment, the invention provides a process for preparing an immunogenic composition comprising a meningococcal fHBP antigen, comprising steps of: (i) providing an aqueous composition comprising a meningococcal fHBP antigen and having a pH; (ii) providing an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant having a point of zero charge which is higher than said pH; and (iii) combining the aqueous composition with the aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant to give the immunogenic composition.

In another embodiment, the invention provides a process for preparing an immunogenic composition comprising a meningococcal fHBP antigen, comprising steps of: (i) providing an aqueous composition comprising an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant and having a pH, wherein the aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant has a point of zero charge which is higher than said pH; and (ii) combining the aqueous composition with a meningococcal fHBP antigen to give the immunogenic composition.

In another embodiment, the invention provides a process for preparing an immunogenic composition comprising a meningococcal fHBP antigen, comprising steps of: (i) providing a first aqueous composition having a pH; (ii) providing a second aqueous composition comprising a meningococcal fHBP antigen and an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant having a point of zero charge which is higher than said pH; and (iii) combining the first and second aqueous compositions to give the immunogenic composition.

In another embodiment, the invention provides a process for preparing an immunogenic composition comprising a meningococcal fHBP antigen, comprising steps of: (i) providing a first aqueous composition having a pH; (ii) providing a second aqueous composition comprising a meningococcal fHBP antigen; and (iii) providing an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant having a point of zero charge which is higher than said pH; and (iv) combining in any order the first aqueous composition, the second aqueous composition and the aluminium hydroxyphosphate, to give the immunogenic composition.

The invention also provides a method for adsorbing two different meningococcal fHBP antigens to an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant, wherein adsorption of both of the fHBP antigens takes place at a pH which is equal to or below the aluminium hydroxyphosphate\'s point of zero charge. Again, mixing of fHBP antigens, aluminium hydroxyphosphate and a buffer can occur in any suitable order.

Thus, in one embodiment, the two different fHBP antigens are separately adsorbed to aluminium hydroxyphosphate at the appropriate pH, and the two adsorbed antigens can then be mixed.

In another embodiment, the two different fHBP antigens are mixed with each other and the mixture is then added to aluminium hydroxyphosphate, where the aluminium hydroxyphosphate is either at an appropriate pH for adsorption or where the pH is adjusted after addition of the mixture.

In another embodiment, the two different fHBP antigens are added sequentially to aluminium hydroxyphosphate, where the aluminium hydroxyphosphate is either at an appropriate pH for adsorption or where the pH is adjusted after addition of one or both fHBP antigens.

In another embodiment, one fHBP antigen is mixed with aluminium hydroxyphosphate and then the other fHBP antigen is added to the mixture, where the aluminium hydroxyphosphate is either at an appropriate pH for adsorption before addition of the first fHBP antigen, or where the pH is adjusted after addition of the first fHBP antigen, or where the pH is adjusted before addition of the second fHBP antigen, or where the pH is adjusted after addition of the second fHBP antigen.

These and other possibilities are available to the skilled person for all embodiments of the invention.

An Alternative Adjuvant

As an alternative to using an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant, the invention can use a particulate complex of an immunostimulatory oligonucleotide and a polycationic polymer, such as “IC31†. Definitions given above can be amended accordingly. For instance, the invention provides an immunogenic composition comprising a meningococcal fHBP antigen and a particulate complex of an immunostimulatory oligonucleotide and a polycationic polymer. The invention also provides an immunogenic composition comprising two different meningococcal fHBP antigens and a particulate complex of an immunostimulatory oligonucleotide and a polycationic polymer.

Immunostimulatory oligonucleotides are known as useful adjuvants. They often contain a CpG motif (a dinucleotide sequence containing an unmethylated cytosine linked to a guanosine) and their adjuvant effect is discussed in refs. 19-24. Oligonucleotides containing TpG motifs, palindromic sequences, multiple consecutive thymidine nucleotides (e.g. TTTT), multiple consecutive cytosine nucleotides (e.g. CCCC) or poly(dG) sequences are also known immunostimulants, as are double-stranded RNAs. Although any of these various immunostimulatory oligonucleotides can be used with the invention, it is preferred to use an oligodeoxynucleotide containing deoxyinosine and/or deoxyuridine, and ideally an oligodeoxynucleotide containing deoxyinosine and deoxycytosine. Inosine-containing oligodeoxynucleotides may include a CpI motif (a dinucleotide sequence containing a cytosine linked to an inosine). The oligodeoxynucleotide may include more than one (e.g. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or more) CpI motif, and these may be directly repeated (e.g. comprising the sequence (CI)x, where x is 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or more) or separated from each other (e.g. comprising the sequence (CIN)x, where x is 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or more, and where each N independently represents one or more nucleotides). Cytosine residues are ideally unmethylated.

An oligonucleotide will typically have between 10 and 100 nucleotides e.g. 15-50 nucleotides, 20-30 nucleotides, or 25-28 nucleotides. It will typically be single-stranded.

The oligonucleotide can include exclusively natural nucleotides, exclusively non-natural nucleotides, or a mix of both. For instance, it may include one or more phosphorothioate linkage(s), and/or one or more nucleotides may have a 2′-O-methyl modification.

A preferred oligonucleotide is a single-stranded deoxynucleotide comprising the 26-mer sequence 5′-(IC)13-3′ (SEQ ID NO: 18). This oligodeoxynucleotide forms stable complexes with polycationic polymers to give a good adjuvant.

The polycationic polymer is ideally a polycationic peptide. The polymer may include one or more leucine amino acid residue(s) and/or one or more lysine amino acid residue(s). The polymer may include one or more arginine amino acid residue(s). It may include at least one direct repeat of one of these amino acids e.g. one or more Leu-Leu dipeptide sequence(s), one or more Lys-Lys dipeptide sequence(s), or one or more Arg-Arg dipeptide sequence(s). It may include at least one (and preferably multiple e.g. 2 or 3) Lys-Leu dipeptide sequence(s) and/or at least one (and preferably multiple e.g. 2 or 3) Lys-Leu-Lys tripeptide sequence(s).

The peptide may comprise a sequence R1—XZXZxXZX—R2, wherein: x is 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7; each X is independently a positively-charged natural and/or non-natural amino acid residue; each Z is independently an amino acid residue L, V, I, F or W; and R1 and R2 are independently selected from the group consisting of —H, —NH2, —COCH3, or —COH. In some embodiments X—R2 may be an amide, ester or thioester of the peptide\'s C-terminal amino acid residue.

A polycationic peptide will typically have between 5 and 50 amino acids e.g. 6-20 amino acids, 7-15 amino acids, or 9-12 amino acids.

A peptide can include exclusively natural amino acids, exclusively non-natural amino acids, or a mix of both. It may include L-amino acids and/or D-amino acids. L-amino acids are typical.

A peptide can have a natural N-terminus (NH2—) or a modified N-terminus e.g. a hydroxyl, acetyl, etc. A peptide can have a natural C-terminus (—COOH) or a modified C-terminus e.g. a hydroxyl, an acetyl, etc. Such modifications can improve the peptide\'s stability.

A preferred peptide for use with the invention is the 11-mer KLKLLLLLKLK (SEQ ID NO: 19), with all L-amino acids. The N-terminus may be deaminated and the C-terminus may be hydroxylated. A preferred peptide is H-KLKL5KLK-OH, with all L-amino acids. This oligopeptide forms stable complexes with immunostimulatory oligonucleotides to give a good adjuvant.

The most preferred mixture of immunostimulatory oligonucleotide and polycationic polymer is the TLR9 agonist known as IC31â„¢ [25-27], which is an adsorptive complex of oligodeoxynucleotide SEQ ID NO: 18 and polycationic oligopeptide SEQ ID NO: 19.

The oligonucleotide and oligopeptide can be mixed together at various ratios, but they will generally be mixed with the peptide at a molar excess. The molar excess may be at least 5:1 e.g. 10:1, 15:1, 20:1, 25:1, 30:1, 35:1, 40:1 etc. A molar ratio of about 25:1 is ideal [28,29]. Mixing at this excess ratio can result in formation of insoluble particulate complexes between oligonucleotide and oligopeptide. The complexes can be combined with an oil-in-water emulsion.

The oligonucleotide and oligopeptide will typically be mixed under aqueous conditions e.g. a solution of the oligonucleotide can be mixed with a solution of the oligopeptide with a desired ratio. The two solutions may be prepared by dissolving dried (e.g. lyophilised) materials in water or buffer to form stock solutions that can then be mixed. The complexes can be analysed using the methods disclosed in reference 30.

Poly-arginine and CpG oligodeoxynucleotides similarly form complexes [31] which may be used.

The complexes can be maintained in aqueous suspension e.g. in water or in buffer. Typical buffers for use with the complexes are phosphate buffers (e.g. phosphate-buffered saline), Tris buffers, Tris/sorbitol buffers, borate buffers, succinate buffers, citrate buffers, histidine buffers, etc. As an alternative, complexes may sometimes be lyophilised.

Various concentrations of oligonucleotide and polycationic polymer can be used e.g. any of the concentrations used in references 25, 28 or 29. For example, a polycationic oligopeptide can be present at 1100 μM, 1000 μM, 350 μM, 220 μM, 200 μM, 110 μM, 100 μM, 11 μM, 10 μM, etc. An oligonucleotide can be present at 44 nM, 40 nM, 14 nM, 4.4 nM, 4 nM, etc. A polycationic oligopeptide concentration of less than 2000 nM is typical. For SEQ ID NOs: 18 & 19, mixed at a molar ratio of 1:25, the concentrations in mg/mL in three embodiments of the invention may thus be 0.311 & 1.322, or 0.109 & 0.463, or 0.031 and 0.132.

In embodiments of the invention which include a particulate complex of an immunostimulatory oligonucleotide and a polycationic polymer, it is useful if this complex is the sole adjuvant e.g. the composition may be free from aluminium salts and free from oil-in-water emulsions.

In a specific embodiment, the invention provides an immunogenic composition comprising: a particulate complex of an immunostimulatory oligonucleotide and a polycationic polymer (e.g. IC31); a meningococcal fHBP antigen; and conjugated capsular saccharides from 1, 2, 3 or 4 of meningococcal serogroups A, C, W135 and/or Y. Further details of suitable conjugated saccharides are given below.

Further Antigen(s)

In addition to fHBP antigen(s), compositions of the invention can include further antigens from meningococcus or from other pathogens e.g. from other bacteria such as pneumococcus.

Further Meningococcal Polypeptide Antigens

In addition to including meningococcal fHBP polypeptide antigen(s), a composition may include one or more further meningococcal polypeptide antigen(s). Thus a composition may include a polypeptide antigen selected from the group consisting of: 287, NadA, NspA, HmbR, NhhA, App, and/or Omp85. These antigens will usefully be present as purified polypeptides e.g. recombinant polypeptides. The antigen will preferably elicit bactericidal anti-meningococcal antibodies after administration to a subject. If a composition includes a PorA antigen then, in some embodiments, only one meningococcal PorA serosubtype is included. In some embodiments, no meningococcal PorA outer membrane protein is included in a composition.

A composition of the invention may include a 287 antigen. The 287 antigen was included in the published genome sequence for meningococcal serogroup B strain MC58 [32] as gene NMB2132 (GenBank accession number GI:7227388; SEQ ID NO: 9 herein). The sequences of 287 antigen from many strains have been published since then. For example, allelic forms of 287 can be seen in FIGS. 5 and 15 of reference 33, and in example 13 and FIG. 21 of reference 34 (SEQ IDs 3179 to 3184 therein). Various immunogenic fragments of the 287 antigen have also been reported. Preferred 287 antigens for use with the invention comprise an amino acid sequence: (a) having 50% or more identity (e.g. 60%, 65%, 70%, 75%, 80%, 85%, 90%, 91%, 92%, 93%, 94%, 95%, 96%, 97%, 98%, 99%, 99.5% or more) to SEQ ID NO: 9; and/or (b) comprising a fragment of at least ‘n’ consecutive amino acids of SEQ ID NO: 9, wherein ‘n’ is 7 or more (e.g. 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 150, 200, 250 or more). Preferred fragments of (b) comprise an epitope from SEQ ID NO: 9. The most useful 287 antigens of the invention can elicit antibodies which, after administration to a subject, can bind to a meningococcal polypeptide consisting of amino acid sequence SEQ ID NO: 9. Advantageous 287 antigens for use with the invention can elicit bactericidal anti-meningococcal antibodies after administration to a subject.

A composition of the invention may include a NadA antigen. The NadA antigen was included in the published genome sequence for meningococcal serogroup B strain MC58 [32] as gene NMB 1994 (GenBank accession number GI:7227256; SEQ ID NO: 10 herein). The sequences of NadA antigen from many strains have been published since then, and the protein\'s activity as a Neisserial adhesin has been well documented. Various immunogenic fragments of NadA have also been reported. Preferred NadA antigens for use with the invention comprise an amino acid sequence: (a) having 50% or more identity (e.g. 60%, 65%, 70%, 75%, 80%, 85%, 90%, 91%, 92%, 93%, 94%, 95%, 96%, 97%, 98%, 99%, 99.5% or more) to SEQ ID NO: 10; and/or (b) comprising a fragment of at least ‘n’ consecutive amino acids of SEQ ID NO: 10, wherein ‘n’ is 7 or more (e.g. 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 150, 200, 250 or more). Preferred fragments of (b) comprise an epitope from SEQ ID NO: 10. The most useful NadA antigens of the invention can elicit antibodies which, after administration to a subject, can bind to a meningococcal polypeptide consisting of amino acid sequence SEQ ID NO: 10. Advantageous NadA antigens for use with the invention can elicit bactericidal anti-meningococcal antibodies after administration to a subject. SEQ ID NO: 6 is one such fragment.

A composition of the invention may include a NspA antigen. The NspA antigen was included in the published genome sequence for meningococcal serogroup B strain MC58 [32] as gene NMB0663 (GenBank accession number GI:7225888; SEQ ID NO: 11 herein). The antigen was previously known from references 35 & 36. The sequences of NspA antigen from many strains have been published since then. Various immunogenic fragments of NspA have also been reported. Preferred NspA antigens for use with the invention comprise an amino acid sequence: (a) having 50% or more identity (e.g. 60%, 65%, 70%, 75%, 80%, 85%, 90%, 91%, 92%, 93%, 94%, 95%, 96%, 97%, 98%, 99%, 99.5% or more) to SEQ ID NO: 11; and/or (b) comprising a fragment of at least ‘n’ consecutive amino acids of SEQ ID NO: 11, wherein ‘n’ is 7 or more (e.g. 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 150, 200, 250 or more). Preferred fragments of (b) comprise an epitope from SEQ ID NO: 11. The most useful NspA antigens of the invention can elicit antibodies which, after administration to a subject, can bind to a meningococcal polypeptide consisting of amino acid sequence SEQ ID NO: 11. Advantageous NspA antigens for use with the invention can elicit bactericidal anti-meningococcal antibodies after administration to a subject.

Compositions of the invention may include a meningococcal HmbR antigen. The full-length HmbR sequence was included in the published genome sequence for meningococcal serogroup B strain MC58 [32] as gene NMB 1668 (SEQ ID NO: 7 herein). Reference 37 reports a HmbR sequence from a different strain (SEQ ID NO: 8 herein). SEQ ID NOs: 7 and 8 differ in length by 1 amino acid and have 94.2% identity. The invention can use a polypeptide that comprises a full-length HmbR sequence, but it will often use a polypeptide that comprises a partial HmbR sequence. Thus in some embodiments a HmbR sequence used according to the invention may comprise an amino acid sequence having at least i % sequence identity to SEQ ID NO: 7, where the value of i is 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 95, 99 or more. In other embodiments a HmbR sequence used according to the invention may comprise a fragment of at least j consecutive amino acids from SEQ ID NO: 7, where the value of j is 7, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 150, 200, 250 or more. In other embodiments a HmbR sequence used according to the invention may comprise an amino acid sequence (i) having at least i % sequence identity to SEQ ID NO: 7 and/or (ii) comprising a fragment of at least j consecutive amino acids from SEQ ID NO: 7. Preferred fragments of j amino acids comprise an epitope from SEQ ID NO: 7. Such epitopes will usually comprise amino acids that are located on the surface of HmbR. Useful epitopes include those with amino acids involved in HmbR\'s binding to haemoglobin, as antibodies that bind to these epitopes can block the ability of a bacterium to bind to host haemoglobin. The topology of HmbR, and its critical functional residues, were investigated in reference 38. The most useful HmbR antigens of the invention can elicit antibodies which, after administration to a subject, can bind to a meningococcal polypeptide consisting of amino acid sequence SEQ ID NO: 7. Advantageous HmbR antigens for use with the invention can elicit bactericidal anti-meningococcal antibodies after administration to a subject.

A composition of the invention may include a NhhA antigen. The NhhA antigen was included in the published genome sequence for meningococcal serogroup B strain MC58 [32] as gene NMB0992 (GenBank accession number GI:7226232; SEQ ID NO: 12 herein). The sequences of NhhA antigen from many strains have been published since e.g. refs 33 & 39, and various immunogenic fragments of NhhA have been reported. It is also known as Hsf. Preferred NhhA antigens for use with the invention comprise an amino acid sequence: (a) having 50% or more identity (e.g. 60%, 65%, 70%, 75%, 80%, 85%, 90%, 91%, 92%, 93%, 94%, 95%, 96%, 97%, 98%, 99%, 99.5% or more) to SEQ ID NO: 12; and/or (b) comprising a fragment of at least ‘n’ consecutive amino acids of SEQ ID NO: 12, wherein ‘n’ is 7 or more (e.g. 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 150, 200, 250 or more). Preferred fragments of (b) comprise an epitope from SEQ ID NO: 12. The most useful NhhA antigens of the invention can elicit antibodies which, after administration to a subject, can bind to a meningococcal polypeptide consisting of amino acid sequence SEQ ID NO: 12. Advantageous NhhA antigens for use with the invention can elicit bactericidal anti-meningococcal antibodies after administration to a subject.

A composition of the invention may include an App antigen. The App antigen was included in the published genome sequence for meningococcal serogroup B strain MC58 [32] as gene NMB 1985 (GenBank accession number GI:7227246; SEQ ID NO: 13 herein). The sequences of App antigen from many strains have been published since then. Various immunogenic fragments of App have also been reported. Preferred App antigens for use with the invention comprise an amino acid sequence: (a) having 50% or more identity (e.g. 60%, 65%, 70%, 75%, 80%, 85%, 90%, 91%, 92%, 93%, 94%, 95%, 96%, 97%, 98%, 99%, 99.5% or more) to SEQ ID NO: 13; and/or (b) comprising a fragment of at least ‘n’ consecutive amino acids of SEQ ID NO: 13, wherein ‘n’ is 7 or more (e.g. 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 150, 200, 250 or more). Preferred fragments of (b) comprise an epitope from SEQ ID NO: 13. The most useful App antigens of the invention can elicit antibodies which, after administration to a subject, can bind to a meningococcal polypeptide consisting of amino acid sequence SEQ ID NO: 13. Advantageous App antigens for use with the invention can elicit bactericidal anti-meningococcal antibodies after administration to a subject.

A composition of the invention may include an Omp85 antigen. The Omp85 antigen was included in the published genome sequence for meningococcal serogroup B strain MC58 [32] as gene NMB0182 (GenBank accession number GI:7225401; SEQ ID NO: 14 herein). The sequences of Omp85 antigen from many strains have been published since then. Further information on Omp85 can be found in references 40 and 41. Various immunogenic fragments of Omp85 have also been reported. Preferred Omp85 antigens for use with the invention comprise an amino acid sequence: (a) having 50% or more identity (e.g. 60%, 65%, 70%, 75%, 80%, 85%, 90%, 91%, 92%, 93%, 94%, 95%, 96%, 97%, 98%, 99%, 99.5% or more) to SEQ ID NO: 14; and/or (b) comprising a fragment of at least ‘n’ consecutive amino acids of SEQ ID NO: 14, wherein ‘n’ is 7 or more (e.g. 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 150, 200, 250 or more). Preferred fragments of (b) comprise an epitope from SEQ ID NO: 14. The most useful Omp85 antigens of the invention can elicit antibodies which, after administration to a subject, can bind to a meningococcal polypeptide consisting of amino acid sequence SEQ ID NO: 14. Advantageous Omp85 antigens for use with the invention can elicit bactericidal anti-meningococcal antibodies after administration to a subject.

Meningococcal Lipooligosaccharide

In addition to including meningococcal fHBP polypeptide antigen(s), a composition may include one or more meningococcal lipooligosaccharide (LOS) antigen(s). Meningococcal LOS is a glucosamine-based phospholipid that is found in the outer monolayer of the outer membrane of the bacterium. It includes a lipid A portion and a core oligosaccharide region, with the lipid A portion acting as a hydrophobic anchor in the membrane. Heterogeneity within the oligosaccharide core generates structural and antigenic diversity among different meningococcal strains, which has been used to subdivide the strains into 12 immunotypes (L1 to L12). The invention may use LOS from any immunotype e.g. from L1, L2, L3, L4, L5, L6, L7 and/or L8.

The L2 and L3 α-chains naturally include lacto-N-neotetraose (LNnT). Where the invention uses LOS from a L2 or L3 immunotype this LNnT may be absent. This absence can be achieved conveniently by using mutant strains that are engineered to disrupt their ability to synthesise the LNnT tetrasaccharide within the α-chain. It is known to achieve this goal by knockout of the enzymes that are responsible for the relevant biosynthetic additions [42,43]. For instance, knockout of the LgtB enzyme prevents addition of the terminal galactose of LNnT, as well as preventing downstream addition of the α-chain\'s terminal sialic acid. Knockout of the LgtA enzyme prevents addition of the N-acetyl-glucosamine of LNnT, and also the downstream additions. LgtA knockout may be accompanied by LgtC knockout. Similarly, knockout of the LgtE and/or GalE enzyme prevents addition of internal galactose, and knockout of LgtF prevents addition of glucose to the Hep1 residue. Any of these knockouts can be used, singly or in combination, to disrupt the LNnT tetrasaccharide in a L2, L3, L4, L7 or L9 immunotype strain. Knockout of at least LgtB is preferred, as this provides a LOS that retains useful immunogenicity while removing the LNnT epitope.

In addition to, or in place of, mutations to disrupt the LNnT epitope, a knockout of the galE gene also provides a useful modified LOS, and a lipid A fatty transferase gene may similarly be knocked out [44]. At least one primary O-linked fatty acid may be removed from LOS [45]. LOS having a reduced number of secondary acyl chains per LOS molecule can also be used [46]. The LOS will typically include at least the GlcNAc-Hep2phosphoethanolamine-KDO2-Lipid A structure [47]. The LOS may include a GlcNAcβ1-3Galβ1-4Glc trisaccharide while lacking the LNnT tetrasaccharide.

LOS may be included in compositions of the invention in various forms. It may be used in purified form on its own. It may be conjugated to a carrier protein. When LOS is conjugated, conjugation may be via a lipid A portion in the LOS or by any other suitable moiety e.g. its KDO residues. If the lipid A moiety of LOS is absent then such alternative linking is required. Conjugation techniques for LOS are known from e.g. references 45, 47, 48, 49, etc. Useful carrier proteins for these conjugates are discussed below e.g. bacterial toxins, such as diphtheria or tetanus toxins, or toxoids or mutants thereof.

The LOS may be from a strain (e.g. a genetically-engineered meningococcal strain) which has a fixed (i.e. not phase variable) LOS immunotype as described in reference 50. For example, L2 and L3 LOS immunotypes may be fixed. Such strains may have a rate of switching between immunotypes that is reduced by more than 2-fold (even >50_fold) relative to the original wild-type strain. Reference 50 discloses how this result can be achieved by modification of the lgtA and/or lgtG gene products.

LOS may be O-acetylated on a GlcNac residue attached to its Heptose II residue e.g. for L3 [51].

An immunogenic composition can include more than one type of LOS e.g. LOS from meningococcal immunotypes L2 and L3. For example, the LOS combinations disclosed in reference 52 may be used.

A LOS antigen can preferably elicit bactericidal anti-meningococcal antibodies after administration to a subject.

However, preferred compositions of the invention are free from meningococcal lipooligosaccharide.

Meningococcal Capsular Saccharide Antigen(s)

In addition to including meningococcal fHBP polypeptide antigen(s), a composition may include one or more meningococcal capsular saccharide conjugates. A composition of the invention may include one or more conjugates of capsular saccharides from 1, 2, 3, or 4 of meningococcal serogroups A, C, W135 and Y e.g. A+C, A+W135, A+Y, C+W135, C+Y, W135+Y, A+C+W135, A+C+Y, A+W135+Y, A+C+W135+Y, etc. Compositions including a conjugated serogroup C capsular saccharide are useful, and compositions including saccharides from all four of serogroups A, C, W135 and Y are ideal.

The capsular saccharide of serogroup A meningococcus is a homopolymer of (α1→6)-linked N-acetyl-D-mannosamine-1-phosphate, with partial O-acetylation in the C3 and C4 positions. Acetylation at the C-3 position can be 70-95%. Conditions used to purify the saccharide can result in de-O-acetylation (e.g. under basic conditions), but it is useful to retain OAc at this C-3 position. In some embodiments, at least 50% (e.g. at least 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%, 95% or more) of the mannosamine residues in a serogroup A saccharides are O-acetylated at the C-3 position. Acetyl groups can be replaced with blocking groups to prevent hydrolysis [53], and such modified saccharides are still serogroup A saccharides within the meaning of the invention.

The serogroup C capsular saccharide is a homopolymer of (α2→9)-linked sialic acid (N-acetyl neuraminic acid, or ‘NeuNAc’). The saccharide structure is written as →9)-Neu p NAc 7/8 OAc-(α2→. Most serogroup C strains have O-acetyl groups at C-7 and/or C-8 of the sialic acid residues, but about 15% of clinical isolates lack these O-acetyl groups [54,55]. The presence or absence of OAc groups generates unique epitopes, and the specificity of antibody binding to the saccharide may affect its bactericidal activity against O-acetylated (OAc+) and de-O-acetylated (OAc−) strains [56-58]. Serogroup C saccharides used with the invention may be prepared from either OAc+ or OAc− strains. Licensed MenC conjugate vaccines include both OAc− (NEISVAC-C™) and OAc+ (MENJUGATE™ & MENINGITEC™) saccharides. In some embodiments, strains for production of serogroup C conjugates are OAc+ strains, e.g. of serotype 16, serosubtype P1.7a, 1, etc. Thus C:16:P1.7a, 1 OAc+ strains may be used. OAc+ strains in serosubtype P1.1 are also useful, such as the C11 strain.

The serogroup W135 saccharide is a polymer of sialic acid-galactose disaccharide units. Like the serogroup C saccharide, it has variable O-acetylation, but at sialic acid 7 and 9 positions [59]. The structure is written as: →4)-D-Neup5Ac(7/9OAc)-α-(2→6)-D-Gal-α-(1→.

The serogroup Y saccharide is similar to the serogroup W135 saccharide, except that the disaccharide repeating unit includes glucose instead of galactose. Like serogroup W135, it has variable O-acetylation at sialic acid 7 and 9 positions [59]. The serogroup Y structure is written as: →4)-D-Neup5Ac(7/9OAc)-α-(2→6)-D-Glc-α-(1→.

The saccharides used according to the invention may be O-acetylated as described above (e.g. with the same O-acetylation pattern as seen in native capsular saccharides), or they may be partially or totally de-O-acetylated at one or more positions of the saccharide rings, or they may be hyper-O-acetylated relative to the native capsular saccharides.

The saccharide moieties in conjugates may comprise full-length saccharides as prepared from meningococci, and/or may comprise fragments of full-length saccharides i.e. the saccharides may be shorter than the native capsular saccharides seen in bacteria. The saccharides may thus be depolymerised, with depolymerisation occurring during or after saccharide purification but before conjugation. Depolymerisation reduces the chain length of the saccharides. One depolymerisation method involves the use of hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is added to a saccharide (e.g. to give a final H2O2 concentration of 1%), and the mixture is then incubated (e.g. at about 55° C.) until a desired chain length reduction has been achieved. Another depolymerisation method involves acid hydrolysis. Other depolymerisation methods are known in the art. The saccharides used to prepare conjugates for use according to the invention may be obtainable by any of these depolymerisation methods. Depolymerisation can be used in order to provide an optimum chain length for immunogenicity and/or to reduce chain length for physical manageability of the saccharides. In some embodiments, saccharides have the following range of average degrees of polymerisation (Dp): A=10-20; C=12-22; W135=15-25; Y=15-25. In terms of molecular weight, rather than Dp, useful ranges are, for all serogroups: <100 kDa; 5 kDa-75 kDa; 7 kDa-50 kDa; 8 kDa-35 kDa; 12 kDa-25 kDa; 15 kDa-22 kDa.

In some embodiments, the average molecular weight for saccharides from each of meningococcal serogroups A, C, W135 and Y may be more than 50 kDa e.g. ≧75 kDa, ≧100 kDa, ≧110 kDa, ≧120 kDa, ≧130 kDa, etc. [60], and even up to 1500 kDa, in particular as determined by MALLS. For instance: a MenA saccharide may be in the range 50-500 kDa e.g. 60-80 kDa; a MenC saccharide may be in the range 100-210 kDa; a MenW135 saccharide may be in the range 60-190 kDa e.g. 120-140 kDa; and/or a MenY saccharide may be in the range 60-190 kDa e.g. 150-160 kDa.

The mass of meningococcal saccharide per serogroup in a composition will usually be between 1 μg and 20 μg e.g. between 2 and 10 μg per serogroup, or about 4 μg or about 5 μg or about 10 μg. Where conjugates from more than one serogroup are included then they may be present at substantially equal masses e.g. the mass of each serogroup\'s saccharide is within +10% of each other. As an alternative to an equal ratio, a double mass of serogroup A saccharide may be used. Thus a vaccine may include MenA saccharide at 10 μg and MenC, W135 and Y saccharides at 5 μg each.

Useful carrier proteins for meningococcal conjugates include bacterial toxins, such as diphtheria or tetanus toxins, or toxoids or mutants thereof. These are commonly used in conjugate vaccines. For example, the CRM197 diphtheria toxin mutant is useful [61]. Other suitable carrier proteins include synthetic peptides [62,63], heat shock proteins [64,65], pertussis proteins [66,67], cytokines [68], lymphokines [68], hormones [68], growth factors [68], artificial proteins comprising multiple human CD4+ T cell epitopes from various pathogen-derived antigens [69] such as N19 [70], protein D from H. influenzae [71-73], pneumolysin [74] or its non-toxic derivatives [75], pneumococcal surface protein PspA [76], iron-uptake proteins [77], toxin A or B from C. difficile [78], recombinant Pseudomonas aeruginosa exoprotein A (rEPA) [79], etc. CRM197 is preferred.

Where a composition includes conjugates from more than one meningococcal serogroup it is possible to use the same carrier protein for each separate conjugate, or to use different carrier proteins. In both cases, though, a mixture of different conjugates will usually be formed by preparing each serotype conjugate separately, and then mixing them to form a mixture of separate conjugates.

Conjugates with a saccharide:protein ratio (w/w) of between 1:5 (i.e. excess protein) and 5:1 (i.e. excess saccharide) may be used e.g. ratios between 1:2 and 5:1 and ratios between 1:1.25 and 1:2.5.

As described in reference 80, different meningococcal serogroup conjugates in a mixture can have different saccharide:protein ratios e.g. one may have a ratio of between 1:2 & 1:5, whereas another has a ratio between 5:1 & 1:1.99.

A carrier protein may be covalently conjugated to a meningococcal saccharide directly or via a linker. Various linkers are known. For example, attachment may be via a carbonyl, which may be formed by reaction of a free hydroxyl group of a modified saccharide with CDI [81,82] followed by reaction with a protein to form a carbamate linkage. Carbodiimide condensation can be used [83]. An adipic acid linker can be used, which may be formed by coupling a free —NH2 group (e.g. introduced to a saccharide by amination) with adipic acid (using, for example, diimide activation), and then coupling a protein to the resulting saccharide-adipic acid intermediate [84,85]. Other linkers include β-propionamido [86], nitrophenyl-ethylamine [87], haloacyl halides [88], glycosidic linkages [89], 6-aminocaproic acid [90], N-succinimidyl-3-(2-pyridyldithio)-propionate (SPDP) [91], adipic acid dihydrazide ADH [92], C4 to C12 moieties [93], etc.

Conjugation via reductive amination can be used. The saccharide may first be oxidised with periodate to introduce an aldehyde group, which can then form a direct covalent linkage to a carrier protein via reductive amination e.g. to the ε-amino group of a lysine. If the saccharide includes multiple aldehyde groups per molecule then this linkage technique can lead to a cross-linked product, where multiple aldehydes react with multiple carrier amines.

As described in reference 94, a mixture can include one conjugate with direct saccharide/protein linkage and another conjugate with linkage via a linker. This arrangement applies particularly when using saccharide conjugates from different meningococcal serogroups e.g. MenA and MenC saccharides may be conjugated via a linker, whereas MenW135 and MenY saccharides may be conjugated directly to a carrier protein.

A meningococcal saccharide may comprise a full-length intact saccharide as prepared from meningococcus, and/or may comprise fragments of full-length saccharides i.e. the saccharides may be shorter than the native capsular saccharides seen in bacteria. The saccharides may thus be depolymerised, with depolymerisation occurring during or after saccharide purification but before conjugation. Depolymerisation reduces the chain length of the saccharides. Depolymerisation can be used in order to provide an optimum chain length for immunogenicity and/or to reduce chain length for physical manageability of the saccharides.

Conjugated Pneumococcal Capsular Saccharide(s)

Compositions of the invention may include a pneumococcal capsular saccharide conjugated to a carrier protein.

The invention can include capsular saccharide from one or more different pneumococcal serotypes. Where a composition includes saccharide antigens from more than one serotype, these are preferably prepared separately, conjugated separately, and then combined. Methods for purifying pneumococcal capsular saccharides are known in the art (e.g. see reference 95) and vaccines based on purified saccharides from 23 different serotypes have been known for many years. Improvements to these methods have also been described e.g. for serotype 3 as described in reference 96, or for serotypes 1, 4, 5, 6A, 6B, 7F and 19A as described in reference 97.

Pneumococcal capsular saccharide(s) will typically be selected from the following serotypes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6A, 6B, 7F, 8, 9N, 9V, 10A, 11A, 12F, 14, 15B, 17F, 18C, 19A, 19F, 20, 22F, 23F and/or 33F. Thus, in total, a composition may include a capsular saccharide from 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 or more different serotypes.

A useful combination of serotypes is a 7-valent combination e.g. including capsular saccharide from each of serotypes 4, 6B, 9V, 14, 18C, 19F, and 23F. Another useful combination is a 9-valent combination e.g. including capsular saccharide from each of serotypes 1, 4, 5, 6B, 9V, 14, 18C, 19F and 23F. Another useful combination is a 10-valent combination e.g. including capsular saccharide from each of serotypes 1, 4, 5, 6B, 7F, 9V, 14, 18C, 19F and 23F. An 11-valent combination may further include saccharide from serotype 3. A 12-valent combination may add to the 10-valent mixture: serotypes 6A and 19A; 6A and 22F; 19A and 22F; 6A and 15B; 19A and 15B; or 22F and 15B. A 13-valent combination may add to the 11-valent mixture: serotypes 19A and 22F; 8 and 12F; 8 and 15B; 8 and 19A; 8 and 22F; 12F and 15B; 12F and 19A; 12F and 22F; 15B and 19A; 15B and 22F; 6A and 19A, etc.

Thus a useful 13-valent combination includes capsular saccharide from serotypes 1, 3, 4, 5, 6A, 6B, 7F, 9V, 14, 18C, 19, 19F and 23F e.g. prepared as disclosed in references 98 to 101. One such combination includes serotype 6B saccharide at about 8 μg/ml and the other 12 saccharides at concentrations of about 4 μg/ml each. Another such combination includes serotype 6A and 6B saccharides at about 8 μg/ml each and the other 11 saccharides at about 4 μg/ml each.

Suitable carrier proteins for conjugates are discussed above in relation to meningococcal conjugates. Particularly useful carrier proteins for pneumococcal conjugate vaccines are CRM197, tetanus toxoid, diphtheria toxoid and H. influenzae protein D. CRM197 is used in PREVNAR™. A 13-valent mixture may use CRM197 as the carrier protein for each of the 13 conjugates, and CRM197 may be present at about 55-60 μg/ml.

Where a composition includes conjugates from more than one pneumococcal serotype, it is possible to use the same carrier protein for each separate conjugate, or to use different carrier proteins. In both cases, though, a mixture of different conjugates will usually be formed by preparing each serotype conjugate separately, and then mixing them to form a mixture of separate conjugates. Reference 102 describes potential advantages when using different carrier proteins in multivalent pneumococcal conjugate vaccines, but the PREVNARâ„¢ product successfully uses the same carrier for each of seven different serotypes.

A carrier protein may be covalently conjugated to a pneumococcal saccharide directly or via a linker, as discussed above in relation to meningococcal conjugates. Cross-linking conjugation techniques are particularly useful for at least pneumococcal serotypes 4, 6B, 9V, 14, 18C, 19F and 23F.

As discussed above for meningococcal saccharides, a pneumococcal saccharide may comprise a full-length intact saccharide as prepared from pneumococcus, and/or may comprise fragments of full-length saccharides. Where more than one pneumococcal serotype is used then it is possible to use intact saccharides for each serotype, fragments for each serotype, or to use intact saccharides for some serotypes and fragments for other serotypes. Where a composition includes saccharide from any of serotypes 4, 6B, 9V, 14, 19F and 23F, these saccharides are preferably intact. In contrast, where a composition includes serotype 18C saccharide it is preferably depolymerised.

A serotype 3 saccharide may also be depolymerised, For instance, a serotype 3 saccharide can be subjected to acid hydrolysis for depolymerisation [98] e.g. using acetic acid. The resulting fragments may then be oxidised for activation (e.g. periodate oxidation, maybe in the presence of bivalent cations e.g. with MgCl2), conjugated to a carrier (e.g. CRM197) under reducing conditions (e.g. using sodium cyanoborohydride), and then (optionally) any unreacted aldehydes in the saccharide can be capped (e.g. using sodium borohydride) [98]. Conjugation may be performed on lyophilized material e.g. after co-lyophilizing activated saccharide and carrier.

A serotype 1 saccharide may be at least partially de-O-acetylated e.g. achieved by alkaline pH buffer treatment [99] such as by using a bicarbonate/carbonate buffer. Such (partially) de-O-acetylated saccharides can be oxidised for activation (e.g. periodate oxidation), conjugated to a carrier (e.g. CRM197) under reducing conditions (e.g. using sodium cyanoborohydride), and then (optionally) any unreacted aldehydes in the saccharide can be capped (e.g. using sodium borohydride) [99]. Conjugation may be performed on lyophilized material e.g. after co-lyophilizing activated saccharide and carrier.

A serotype 19A saccharide may be oxidised for activation (e.g. periodate oxidation), conjugated to a carrier (e.g. CRM197) in DMSO under reducing conditions, and then (optionally) any unreacted aldehydes in the saccharide can be capped (e.g. using sodium borohydride) [103]. Conjugation may be performed on lyophilized material e.g. after co-lyophilizing activated saccharide and carrier.

Pneumococcal conjugates can ideally elicit anticapsular antibodies that bind to the relevant saccharide e.g. elicit an anti-saccharide antibody level ≧0.20 μg/mL [104]. The antibodies may be evaluated by enzyme immunoassay (EIA) and/or measurement of opsonophagocytic activity (OPA). The EIA method has been extensively validated and there is a link between antibody concentration and vaccine efficacy.

Further Antigens from Other Pathogen(s)

Compositions of the invention can include antigen(s) from further pathogen(s). The use of an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant, and avoidance of an aluminium hydroxide adjuvant, is advantageous in the context of such combinations because, as described above, the additional antigens (in particular bacterial capsular saccharides) may be sensitive to the hydroxide salt.

For example, the composition may comprise one or more of the following further antigen(s):\n

    • an antigen from hepatitis B virus, such as the surface antigen HBsAg.
    • an antigen from Bordetella pertussis, such as pertussis holotoxin (PT) and filamentous haemagglutinin (FHA) from B. pertussis, optionally also in combination with pertactin and/or agglutinogens 2 and 3.
    • a diphtheria antigen, such as a diphtheria toxoid.
    • a tetanus antigen, such as a tetanus toxoid.
    • a saccharide antigen from Haemophilus influenzae B (Hib), typically conjugated.
    • inactivated poliovirus antigen(s).

Where a diphtheria antigen is included in the composition it is preferred also to include tetanus antigen and pertussis antigens. Similarly, where a tetanus antigen is included it is preferred also to include diphtheria and pertussis antigens. Similarly, where a pertussis antigen is included it is preferred also to include diphtheria and tetanus antigens. DTP combinations are thus preferred.

Extemporaneous Preparation

The invention also provides a kit comprising: (i) a first component comprising at least one fHBP antigen adsorbed to an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant, as described above; and (ii) a second component comprising a non-meningococcal immunogen. The kit components can be mixed to give an immunogenic composition for administering to a patient to protect against multiple pathogens.

The invention also provides a method for preparing a combined vaccine, comprising a step of mixing: (i) a first component comprising at least one fHBP antigen adsorbed to an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant, as described above; and (ii) a second component comprising a non-meningococcal immunogen. The mixed material may then be administered to a patient. The second component may be lyophilised, such that an aqueous first component reconstitutes it.

Pharmaceutical Compositions

The invention is concerned with immunogenic compositions for administration to a patient. These compositions are pharmaceutically acceptable and will typically include a suitable carrier. A thorough discussion of pharmaceutically acceptable carriers is available in reference 105.

Effective dosage volumes can be routinely established, but a typical human dose of the composition has a volume of about 0.5 ml.

The pH of a composition of the invention is usually between 6 and 8, and more preferably between 6.5 and 7.5 (e.g. about 7). As already discussed above, compositions may include a buffer e.g. a Tris buffer, a citrate buffer, phosphate buffer, a succinate buffer (such as a sodium succinate buffer), or a histidine buffer.

In the first aspect of the invention, a particular pH is used prior to and/or during adsorption, as explained above. If the adsorption is stable, however, that pH does not have to be maintained after adsorption but can be allowed to rise e.g. closer to neutral. After adsorption, therefore, such a composition may be buffered at a pH above the adjuvant\'s PZC.

Similarly, the pH of a composition according to the second aspect should be in the range of 5.0 to 7.0 before and/or during adsorption, but may be outside this range (e.g. in the range 7.0 to 8.0) after adsorption. Ideally, though, compositions of the second aspect are maintained with a post-adsorption pH in the range of 5.0 to 7.0 by the use of a buffer.

If adsorption has taken place at a pH above the adjuvant\'s PZC then, if the adsorption is stable, the pH does not have to be maintained but can be allowed to drop e.g. closer to neutral. After adsorption, therefore, such a composition may be buffered at a pH below the adjuvant\'s PZC.

The pH of a composition according to the third aspect is within 1.2 pH units of the adjuvant\'s PZC before and/or during adsorption, but may be outside this range after adsorption. Ideally, though, compositions of the third aspect are maintained with a post-adsorption pH within 1.2 pH units of the adjuvant\'s PZC.

In some embodiments, a composition of the invention includes a buffer with a pKa between 3.5 and 6.5, particularly when used in combination with saline. This formulation is said to be useful with fHBP in reference 106. A succinate buffer with 1-10 mM succinate (e.g. 5 mM) is useful, with a pH between 5.8 and 6.0. The composition may include MgCl2, KCl and/or NaCl.

The composition may be sterile and/or pyrogen-free. Compositions of the invention may be isotonic with respect to humans.

Compositions of the invention may include sodium salts (e.g. sodium chloride) to give tonicity. A concentration of 10±2 mg/ml NaCl is typical e.g. about 9 mg/ml.

Compositions of the invention for administration to patients are immunogenic, and are more preferably vaccine compositions. Vaccines according to the invention may either be prophylactic (i.e. to prevent infection) or therapeutic (i.e. to treat infection), but will typically be prophylactic. Immunogenic compositions used as vaccines comprise an immunologically effective amount of antigen(s), as well as any other components, as needed. By ‘immunologically effective amount’, it is meant that the administration of that amount to an individual, either in a single dose or as part of a series, is effective for treatment or prevention. This amount varies depending upon the health and physical condition of the individual to be treated, age, the taxonomic group of individual to be treated (e.g. non-human primate, primate, etc.), the capacity of the individual\'s immune system to synthesise antibodies, the degree of protection desired, the formulation of the vaccine, the treating doctor\'s assessment of the medical situation, and other relevant factors. It is expected that the amount will fall in a relatively broad range that can be determined through routine trials. The antigen content of compositions of the invention will generally be expressed in terms of the amount of protein per dose.

Meningococci affect various areas of the body and so the compositions of the invention may be prepared in various liquid forms. For example, the compositions may be prepared as injectables, either as solutions or suspensions. The composition may be prepared for pulmonary administration e.g. by an inhaler, using a fine spray. The composition may be prepared for nasal, aural or ocular administration e.g. as spray or drops. Injectables for intramuscular administration are most typical.

Compositions of the invention may include an antimicrobial, particularly when packaged in multiple dose format. Antimicrobials such as thiomersal and 2-phenoxyethanol are commonly found in vaccines, but it is preferred to use either a mercury-free preservative or no preservative at all.

Compositions of the invention may comprise detergent e.g. a Tween (polysorbate), such as Tween 80. Detergents are generally present at low levels e.g. <0.01%, but higher levels have been suggested for stabilising antigen formulations [106] e.g. up to 10%. An example composition may include from 0.01 to 0.05% polysorbate, and this is particularly useful when using lipidated fHBP antigen(s).

Methods of Treatment

The invention also provides a method for raising an immune response in a mammal, comprising administering a composition of the invention to the mammal. The immune response is preferably protective against meningococcus and preferably involves antibodies. The method may raise a booster response in a patient that has already been primed.

The mammal is preferably a human. Where the vaccine is for prophylactic use, the human is preferably a child (e.g. a toddler or infant) or a teenager; where the vaccine is for therapeutic use, the human is preferably an adult. A vaccine intended for children may also be administered to adults e.g. to assess safety, dosage, immunogenicity, etc.

The invention also provides compositions of the invention for use as a medicament. The medicament is preferably used, as described above, to raise an immune response in a mammal (i.e. it is an immunogenic composition) and is more preferably a vaccine.

The invention also provides the use of at least one fHBP antigen and an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant in the manufacture of a medicament for raising an immune response, as described above, in a mammal.

These uses and methods are preferably for the prevention and/or treatment of a disease caused by N. meningitidis e.g. bacterial (or, more specifically, meningococcal) meningitis, or septicemia.

One way of checking efficacy of therapeutic treatment involves monitoring meningococcal infection after administration of the composition of the invention. One way of checking efficacy of prophylactic treatment involves monitoring immune responses against antigens after administration of the composition. Immunogenicity of compositions of the invention can be determined by administering them to test subjects (e.g. children 12-16 months age, or animal models) and then determining standard parameters including serum bactericidal antibodies (SBA) and ELISA titres (GMT) for meningococcus. These immune responses will generally be determined around 4 weeks after administration of the composition, and compared to values determined before administration of the composition. A SBA increase of at least 4-fold or 8-fold is preferred. Where more than one dose of the composition is administered, more than one post-administration determination may be made.

Compositions of the invention will generally be administered directly to a patient. Direct delivery may be accomplished by parenteral injection (e.g. subcutaneously, intraperitoneally, intravenously, intramuscularly, or to the interstitial space of a tissue), or by any other suitable route. The invention may be used to elicit systemic and/or mucosal immunity. Intramuscular administration to the thigh or the upper arm is preferred. Injection may be via a needle (e.g. a hypodermic needle), but needle-free injection may alternatively be used. A typical intramuscular dose is 0.5 ml.

Dosage treatment can be a single dose schedule or a multiple dose schedule. Multiple doses may be used in a primary immunisation schedule and/or in a booster immunisation schedule. A primary dose schedule may be followed by a booster dose schedule. Suitable timing between priming doses (e.g. between 4-16 weeks), and between priming and boosting, can be routinely determined.

General

The practice of the present invention will employ, unless otherwise indicated, conventional methods of chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology, immunology and pharmacology, within the skill of the art. Such techniques are explained fully in the literature. See, e.g., references 107-113, etc.

The term “comprising†encompasses “including†as well as “consisting†e.g. a composition “comprising†X may consist exclusively of X or may include something additional e.g. X+Y.

The term “about†in relation to a numerical value x is optional and means, for example, x+10%.

Where the invention concerns an “epitope†, this epitope may be a B-cell epitope and/or a T-cell epitope, but will usually be a B-cell epitope. Such epitopes can be identified empirically (e.g. using PEPSCAN [114,115] or similar methods), or they can be predicted (e.g. using the Jameson-Wolf antigenic index [116], matrix-based approaches [117], MAPITOPE [118], TEPITOPE [119,120], neural networks [121], OptiMer & EpiMer [122,123], ADEPT [124], Tsites [125], hydrophilicity [126], antigenic index [127] or the methods disclosed in references 128-132, etc.). Epitopes are the parts of an antigen that are recognised by and bind to the antigen binding sites of antibodies or T-cell receptors, and they may also be referred to as “antigenic determinants†.

Where the invention uses a “purified†antigen, this antigen is separated from its naturally occurring environment. For example, the antigen will be substantially free from other meningococcal components, other than from any other purified antigens that are present. A mixture of purified antigens will typically be prepared by purifying each antigen separately and then re-combining them, even if the two antigens are naturally present in admixture.

References to a percentage sequence identity between two amino acid sequences means that, when aligned, that percentage of amino acids are the same in comparing the two sequences. This alignment and the percent homology or sequence identity can be determined using software programs known in the art, for example those described in section 7.7.18 of ref. 133. A preferred alignment is determined by the Smith-Waterman homology search algorithm using an affine gap search with a gap open penalty of 12 and a gap extension penalty of 2, BLOSUM matrix of 62. The Smith-Waterman homology search algorithm is disclosed in ref. 134.

The word “substantially†does not exclude “completely†e.g. a composition which is “substantially free†from Y may be completely free from Y. Where necessary, the word “substantially†may be omitted from the definition of the invention.

Modes for Carrying out the Invention

Aluminium Adjuvants

Adsorption of fHBP to different aluminium adjuvants under different conditions was studied. Various fHBP antigens were used, including a single fHBP (predicted pI of 7.4) or hybrid mixtures of 2 or 3 fHBPs. Some experiments included additional non-fHBP meningococcal antigens.

With an aluminium hydroxide adjuvant at pH 6.5±0.5, 100% adsorption of fHBP was seen with all single and mixed antigens. Full adsorption was also seen at slightly higher pH in the presence of 10 mM histidine buffer. The presence of additional meningococcal polypeptide adjuvants did not reduce the degree of fHBP adsorption.

In contrast, with an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant at pH 7.0 the fHBP antigen was seen to be only 50% adsorbed. This pH is below the antigen\'s predicted pI and above the adjuvant\'s PZC.

Aluminium hydroxide adjuvants generally have a PZC of about 11.4. Thus neutral pH is below the adjuvant\'s PZC. In contrast, neutral pH is above PZC of the aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant.

Adsorption of fHBP to an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant was studied at various pH. The following data show pH and adsorption data obtained 24 hours after formulation. These three formulations have the same protein concentration (50 μg/ml) and adjuvant concentration (0.5 mg/ml), but use a 10 mM sodium phosphate buffer at different pH:

pH% adsorption7.0~50%5.8~95%3.5not adsorbed

Thus ˜95% adsorption was achieved in a pH 5.8 composition. This pH is approximately equal to the adjuvant\'s PZC (slightly higher) but is well below the antigen\'s pI. In contrast, at an increased pH (1.2 pH units higher) or decreased pH (2.3 pH units lower) adsorption was poor.

A high level of adsorption could also be achieved by increasing the amount of adjuvant 4.5-fold.

The influence of buffer and pH was studied in further experiments using 1 mg/ml adjuvant and 100 μg/ml antigen. Results were as follows:

BufferpH% adsorptionSodium phosphate7.1~80%10 mM5.9~95%5.5~95%4~80%Sodium phosphate6.9~85%5 mM6.1~95%5.9~95%Histidine7~96%5 mM5.9~98%5.2~95%

Thus high adsorption (≧95%) to aluminium hydroxyphosphate could be achieved by selecting an appropriate pH. Adsorption levels above 85% were here seen only when the pH was within 1.2 pH units of the adjuvant\'s PZC (in the relevant buffer).

As mentioned above, these studies were performed with a fHBP having a pI of 7.4. This fHBP is referred to hereafter as fHBP-v1. Further studies were performed with fHBP from two more meningococcal strains. The predicted pI for fHBP-v2 is 5.8, and for fHBP-v3 it is 6.1. Furthermore, a fusion to combine all three of v1, v2 and v3 was studied. Each of these four proteins was formulated at 100 μg/ml with 0.222 mg/ml adjuvant and 9 mg/ml NaCl. Three different formulation pH were investigated, namely pH 5, pH 6 and pH 7. The degree of adsorption of the fHBP proteins to the aluminium hydroxyphosphate was then determined. Results were as follows:

Adsorption at pHpI567v17.420-40%90-95% 40-60%v25.8 >95%>95% <25%v36.190-95%>95%80-85%v1 + v2 + v3— >95%>95%85-90%

These results confirm that the v1/v2/v3 combination, which includes one fHBP with a pI of 5.8 and another with a pI of 6.1 (i.e. both between 5.0 and 7.0), could achieve adsorption levels of ≧85% using an aluminium hydroxyphosphate adjuvant with a PZC between 5.0 and 7.0. Moreover, the highest levels of adsorption for this combination were seen when the pH was within 1.2 pH units of the adjuvant\'s point of zero charge (i.e. at pH 5 or pH 6, rather than at pH 7).

High adsorption was seen except (i) for v1 and v2, when the pH was more than 1.2 units higher than the adjuvant\'s PZC (ii) for v1, when the pH was lower than the adjuvant\'s PZC and the fHBP\'s pI was outside the range of 5.0 to 7.0. The relatively low adsorption of the v2 fHBP at pH 7 could be overcome by adding a second fHBP with a pI in the range of 5.0 to 7.0.

Thus mixtures of multiple fHBP variants with different pI values can successfully be formulated with high levels of adsorption without requiring aluminium hydroxide.

Immunostimulatory Oligonucleotide+Polycationic Polymer Adjuvant

As an alternative to using an aluminium-based adjuvants the invention can use a particulate complex of an immunostimulatory oligonucleotide and a polycationic polymer, such as IC31.

The three polypeptides which make up the ‘5CVMB’ vaccine disclosed in reference 12 (see also ref. 135) were adjuvanted with aluminium hydroxide and/or IC31. One of these three polypeptides includes a fHBP antigen.

In a first set of experiments, nine groups of mice received 10 μg of antigens, 3 mg/ml of aluminium hydroxide and varying doses of IC31. Groups received the following nine compositions, with groups 7-9 receiving the same antigens as 1-6 but differently formulated:

Antigen dose (μg)IC31 volume* (μl)Al—H (mg/ml)510036101000710039101000*A standard IC31 suspension was used. 100 μl of this suspension gave full-strength. Lower volumes gave lower strengths. To preserve the volume for the lower-strength compositions, buffer was added up to 100 μl.

Sera from the mice were tested against a panel of meningococcal strains for bactericidal activity.

Bactericidal titers from experiment MP03 were as follows against six different strains, A to F:

ABCDEF5>65536204840968192256327686>655364096>819281921024>655367>6553620484096409625640969327688192>8192>81924096>65536

Thus the titers obtained with IC31 were usually better than those obtained with Al-H.

The ‘5CVMB’ vaccine was combined with a tetravalent mixture of meningococcal conjugates against serogroups A, C, W135 and Y. The mixture was adjuvanted with Al-H or IC31 (at high or low concentration). Bactericidal titers were as follows against a panel with one strain from each of serogroups A, C, W135 and Y:

ACW135YUn-immunised<16<16<16<16No adjuvant1024256128512IC31high327681638440964096IC31low16384819210242048Al-hydroxide16384819210244096

Thus the best titers were seen with IC31.

In separate experiments a triple-fusion polypeptide containing three variants of fHBP, in the order II-III-I (as disclosed in reference 27), was adjuvanted with aluminium hydroxide or IC31.

In a first set of experiments, six groups of mice received 20 μg of antigen (with or without a purification tag), 3 mg/ml of aluminium hydroxide and 100 μl of IC31. Groups received the following:

Antigen dose (μg)Antigen tagIC31 volume (μl)Al—H (mg/ml)120No1000220Yes1000520No03620Yes03

Sera from the mice were tested against a panel of meningococcal strains for bactericidal activity.

Sera from experiment MP05 were again tested against a panel of strains (25 in total). 56% of strains in group 1 (IC31, no tag) had a titer ≧1:1024 vs. only 36% of strains in group 5 (Al-H, no tag). Similarly, 76% of strains in group 1 had a titer ≧1:128 while this titer was observed in only 64% of strains in group 5. Looking at the untagged antigens, 84% of strains in group 2 (IC31) had a titer ≧1:128 vs. 76% in group 6 (Al—H). Thus higher bactericidal titers were achieved using IC31.

Further immunogenicity experiments used the fHBPII-III-I antigen in combination with the NadA and 287-953 antigens in experiment MPO4, with the same groupings and strain panel. Group 1 showed a bactericidal titer ≧1:128 in 100% of strains, compared to only 84% in group 5. With a more stringent threshold of ≧1:1024, sera from group 1 were bactericidal against 88% of strains, compared to only 56% in group 5. Similar results were observed with tagged antigens, where 88% of group 2 had a bactericidal titer of ≧1:128 compared to 80% in group 6. Again, therefore, better anti-meningococcus immune responses were obtained with IC31.

In similar experiments the combination of fHBPII-III-I, NadA and 287-953 was adjuvanted with Al—H or IC31. These compositions were compared with a composition comprising the 5CVMB vaccine including outer membrane vesicles, adjuvanted with Al—H. The IC31-adjuvanated vaccine provided a higher % coverage across 12 tested strains than any other composition.

Thus IC31 is an effective adjuvant for fHBP.

It will be understood that the invention has been described by way of example only and modifications may be made whilst remaining within the scope and spirit of the invention.

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