Max Custer

Research Triangle Park Laboratories, Inc., Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

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Publications (6)25.49 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: We have previously shown that delivery of the porcine type I interferon gene (poIFN-α/β) with a replication-defective human adenovirus vector (Ad5) can sterilely protect swine challenged with foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) one day later. However, the need of relatively high doses of Ad5 limits the applicability of such a control strategy in the livestock industry. Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE) empty replicon particles (VRPs) can induce rapid protection of mice against either homologous or in some cases heterologous virus challenge. As an alternative approach to induce rapid protection against FMDV we have examined the ability of VRPs containing either the gene for green fluorescent protein (VRP-GFP) or poIFN-α (VRP-poIFNα) to block FMDV replication in vitro and in vivo. Pretreatment of swine or bovine cell lines with either VRP significantly inhibited subsequent infection with FMDV as early as 6 h after treatment and for at least 120 h post treatment. Furthermore, mice pretreated with either 107 or 108 infectious units of VRP-GFP and challenged with a lethal dose of FMDV 24 h later were protected from death. Protection was induced as early as 6 h after treatment and lasted for at least 48 h and correlated with induction of an antiviral response and production of IFN-α. By 6 h after treatment several genes were up-regulated and the number of genes and the level of induction increased at 24 h. Finally, we demonstrated that the chemokine IP-10, which is induced by IFN-α and VRP-GFP, is directly involved in protection against FMDV.
    Journal of Virology 03/2013; · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: There are no vaccines or therapeutics currently approved for the prevention or treatment of ebolavirus infection. Previously, a replicon vaccine based on Venezuelan equine encephalitis (VEE) virus demonstrated protective efficacy against Marburgvirus in nonhuman primates. Here we report the protective efficacy of Sudan ebolavirus (SUDV) and Zaire ebolavirus (EBOV)-specific VEE replicon particle (VRP) vaccines in nonhuman primates. VRP vaccines were developed to express the glycoprotein (GP) of either SUDV or EBOV. A single intramuscular vaccination of cynomolgus macaques with VRP expressing SUDV GP provided complete protection against intramuscular challenge with SUDV. Vaccination against SUDV and subsequent survival of SUDV challenge did not fully protect cynomolgus macaques against intramuscular EBOV back-challenge. However, a single simultaneous intramuscular vaccination with VRP expressing SUDV GP combined with VRP expressing EBOV GP did provide complete protection against intramuscular challenge with either SUDV or EBOV in cynomolgus macaques. Finally, intramuscular vaccination with VRP expressing SUDV GP completely protected cynomolgus macaques when challenged with aerosolized SUDV, although complete protection against aerosol challenge required two vaccinations with this vaccine.
    Journal of Virology 02/2013; · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Alphavirus-based replicon vector systems (family Togaviridae) have been developed as expression vectors with demonstrated potential in vaccine development against both infectious diseases and cancer. The single-cycle nature of virus-like replicon particles (VRP), generated by supplying the structural proteins from separate replicable helper RNAs, is an attractive safety component of these systems. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have emerged as important cellular RNA regulation elements. Recently, miRNAs have been employed as a mechanism to attenuate or restrict cellular tropism of replication-competent viruses, such as oncolytic adenoviruses, vesicular stomatitis virus, and picornaviruses as well as nonreplicating lentiviral and adenoviral vectors. Here, we describe the incorporation of miRNA-specific target sequences into replicable alphavirus helper RNAs that are used in trans to provide the structural proteins required for VRP production. VRP were found to be efficiently produced using miRNA-targeted helper RNAs if miRNA-specific inhibitors were introduced into cells during VRP production. In the absence of such inhibitors, cellular miRNAs were capable of downregulating helper RNA replication in vitro. When miRNA targets were incorporated into a replicon RNA, cellular miRNAs were capable of downregulating replicon RNA replication upon delivery of VRP into animals, demonstrating activity in vivo. These data provide the first example of miRNA-specific repression of alphavirus replicon and helper RNA replication and demonstrate the feasibility of miRNA targeting of expression vector helper functions that are provided in trans.
    Journal of Virology 08/2010; 84(15):7713-25. · 5.08 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Alphavirus-based replicon systems are frequently used as preclinical vectors and as antigen discovery tools, and they have recently been assessed in clinical vaccine trials. Typically, alphavirus replicon RNAs are delivered within virus-like replicon particles (VRP) that are produced following transfection of replicon RNA and two helper RNAs into permissive cells in vitro. The non-structural proteins expressed from the replicon RNA amplify the replicon RNA in cis and the helper RNAs in trans, the latter providing the viral structural proteins necessary to package the replicon RNA into VRP. Current helper RNA designs incorporate the alphavirus 26S promoter to direct the transcription of high levels of structural gene mRNAs. We demonstrate here that the 26S promoter is not required on helper RNAs to produce VRP and propose that such promoterless helper RNAs, by design, reduce the probability of generating replication-competent virus that may otherwise result from RNA recombination.
    Journal of General Virology 02/2010; 91(Pt 7):1723-7. · 3.13 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Naturally occurring smallpox was eradicated as a result of successful vaccination campaigns during the 1960s and 1970s. Because of its highly contagious nature and high mortality rate, smallpox has significant potential as a biological weapon. Unfortunately, the current vaccine for orthopoxviruses is contraindicated for large portions of the population. Thus, there is a need for new, safe, and effective orthopoxvirus vaccines. Alphavirus replicon vectors, derived from strains of Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus, are being used to develop alternatives to the current smallpox vaccine. Here, we demonstrated that virus-like replicon particles (VRPs) expressing the vaccinia virus A33R, B5R, A27L, and L1R genes elicited protective immunity in mice comparable to vaccination with live-vaccinia virus. Furthermore, cynomolgus macaques vaccinated with a combination of the four poxvirus VRPs (4pox-VRP) developed antibody responses to each antigen. These antibody responses were able to neutralize and inhibit the spread of both vaccinia virus and monkeypox virus. Macaques vaccinated with 4pox-VRP, flu HA VRP (negative control), or live-vaccinia virus (positive control) were challenged intravenously with 5 x 10(6)pfu of monkeypox virus 1 month after the second VRP vaccination. Four of the six negative control animals succumbed to monkeypox and the remaining two animals demonstrated either severe or grave disease. Importantly, all 10 macaques vaccinated with the 4pox-VRP vaccine survived without developing severe disease. These findings revealed that a single-boost VRP smallpox vaccine shows promise as a safe alternative to the currently licensed live-vaccinia virus smallpox vaccine.
    Vaccine 10/2009; 28(2):494-511. · 3.77 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Here we describe a system for promoterless analysis of putative internal ribosome entry site (IRES) elements using an alphavirus (family Togaviridae) replicon vector. The system uses the alphavirus subgenomic promoter to produce transcripts that, when modified to contain a spacer region upstream of an IRES element, allow analysis of cap-independent translation of genes of interest (GOI). If the IRES element is removed, translation of the subgenomic transcript can be reduced >95% compared to the same transcript containing a functional IRES element. Alphavirus replicons, used in this manner, offer an alternative to standard dicistronic DNA vectors or in vitro translation systems currently used to analyze putative IRES elements. In addition, protein expression levels varied depending on the spacer element located upstream of each IRES. The ability to modulate the level of expression from alphavirus vectors should extend the utility of these vectors in vaccine development.
    Virology 04/2007; 360(2):376-87. · 3.37 Impact Factor