The Hepatitis B virus can cause an acute illness that resolves itself quickly without causing long-term liver damage, however, it can also cause a chronic illness that lasts more than six months, sometimes for life, and may cause cirrhosis and liver cancer. Hepatitis B is second only to tobacco as a human carcinogen, causing 50% of all liver cancers worldwide and is the ninth most common cause of death worldwide, killing around 2 million people each year.
There is currently a vaccine against Hepatitis B, but it has a number of drawbacks. Firstly, it is expensive, secondly, it requires multiple vaccinations before sufficient antibody titres are achieved and thirdly, a number of people are unable to form antibodies after vaccination and hence remain unprotected. The treatments for Hepatitis B are expensive, dangerous and unpleasant.
SEEK’s vaccine would create T cell memory instead of antibody memory, to avoid the shortcomings of the current vaccine. It is possible that the company’s vaccine may also have therapeutic benefit.
SEEK’s Hepatitis B vaccine is at the proof-of-concept stage.