Professor Ian Frazer.
The technology used to create the world-first cervical cancer vaccine may be developed into a vaccine for the sexually transmitted infection herpes.
The company founded by cervical cancer vaccine inventor Ian Frazer, Admedus, on Monday announced to the stock exchange that it had completed safety trials of its new genital herpes vaccine.
They hope the vaccine will be used both to prevent infection with the herpes type 2 virus, and also to cure it in people who are already infected.
It is not known exactly how many Australians have the herpes type 2 virus, but studies indicate it could be up to one in six women and one in 12 men. There is no cure, although antiviral medications can reduce flare-ups.
Admedus chief executive Lee Rodne said trials to test the efficacy of the vaccine would hopefully begin in the second half of the year.
It worked by training the body's immune cells, known as t-cells, to recognise and target the virus.
“It is designed to be agnostic as to whether someone has been exposed to the herpes virus or not,” he said.
“This first test was really just to show safety in humans, but it also showed the immune response we were looking for in terms of generating that particular t-cell response.”
In a statement, Professor Frazer said the results in 20 participants were “very encouraging”, and as soon as he and his team completed their analysis they hoped to begin the efficacy trials in people who had already been infected with herpes type 2. Admedus said further details in the results would be released once the analysis had been completed.
Herpes type 2 more commonly infects the genital and anal areas; herpes type 1 is usually found around the lips and mouth and is often referred to as cold sores.
The company said it was also developing a second generation of the cervical cancer vaccine, which targets the cancer-causing human papillomavirus, which would be effective in people who are already infected.
Mr Rodne said this was particularly important in countries that did not have widespread use of the first vaccine, and so had more infections.
Australia's cervical cancer vaccine program, which provides free immunisation to school girls and boys in their first year of high school, is expected to reduce cervical cancer rates by up to 80 per cent. It is also expected to have flow-on effects on rarer cancers linked to human papillomavirus infection, such as anal and throat cancers.