Press release

Dundee leads way in quest for Strep A vaccine

Published on 19 March 2024

The University of Dundee is leading an international collaboration with the intention of developing the first vaccine for Strep A.

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Experts from the University’s School of Life Sciences are teaming up with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and South Korea’s International Vaccine Institute and Gyeongbuk Institute for Bio-Industry to develop the first recombinant glycoconjugate vaccines for the bacteria.

The research is part of a £2.3 million project funded by the RIGHT Foundation.

“Strep A is a deadly pathogen, but at present there is no vaccine against these bacteria,” said Dr Helge Dorfmueller, Principal Investigator at Dundee and lead scientist of the collaboration.

“Our preclinical data shows that our novel approach can deliver a universal Strep A vaccine that is affordable for all.

“This RIGHT Foundation Product Development Award allows us to expand our development using our engineered methodology to build and evaluate vaccine candidates that target Strep A bacteria.”

Group A Streptococcus – commonly referred to as Strep A – kills more than 500,000 people each year, according to the World Health Organisation. While deaths in the UK are not commonplace, an outbreak in 2022 claimed at least 30 lives and generated widespread public concern.

Group A Strep bacteria can cause a variety of illnesses, including mild disease like scarlet fever and strep throat, but also severe invasive disease including sepsis, meningitis, ‘flesh-eating disease’ and if left untreated, rheumatic heart disease, that often leads to heart failure and death. 

Dundee is one of the world’s leading centres for life sciences research and Dr Dorfmueller and his team will lead on the development and evaluation of recombinant glyco-conjugate vaccine candidates.

They will utilise technology patented by the University, which fuses together the Strep A carbohydrate and pathogen specific proteins – both Strep A vaccine candidates – on specific sites of the protein to produce a “dual hit” vaccine, which prompt antibodies to respond to both parts. 

Dr Dorfmueller’s work has been supported by the University’s Research & Innovation Services, which helps to maximise the impact of research carried out at Dundee and facilitate strategic relationships with industry.

“We know that if Strep A is left untreated, then it can prove fatal. A vaccine for Strep A offers a crucial solution to enhance the lives of millions of people worldwide,” added Dr Dorfmueller.

“We are excited to partner with our distinguished new collaborators, which will allow each of us to push the boundaries of our research and bring new hope to anyone at risk of Strep A disease.”

Professor Brendan Wren, Co-Director of the Vaccine Centre at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, added, “Group A Strep bacteria cause devastating disease, particularly in children.

“We look forward to working with the University of Dundee and the International Vaccine Institute to develop affordable Group A Strep vaccines using novel technology, particularly for individuals in low income countries where they are most needed.”

Notes to editors

The RIGHT Foundation is a Korean funding agency dedicated to support global health R&D, established in 2018 by the Ministry of Health and Welfare of South Korea (MOHW) the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Korean life science companies with the mission of alleviating the disproportionate burden of infectious diseases in the low-middle income countries (LMICs). Since its establishment, the RIGHT Foundation has committed 78.8 billion KRW to support 58 projects.


Jonathan Watson

Senior Press Officer

+44 (0)1382 381489