Poxviruses are large viruses containing a double-stranded DNA genome. Their peculiarity is that they replicate in the cytoplasma. The most prominent member of the Poxviridae arguably is variola virus, which is the causative agent causing pocks in humans. Following a world-wide vaccination program using the closely related vaccinia virus, human poxvirus-related disease was eradicated in 1978.
The orthopoxvirus genus contains, among others, variola virus, vaccinia virus and cowpox virus. Attenuated poxviruses, such as modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA), have been developed as vectored vaccines for various sicknesses, such as tuberculosis, malaria, AIDS and hepatitis B.
The goal of our working group is to develop new techniques for the modification of cowpox viruses. We were successful in generating molecular tools, i.e. full-length molecular clones, that allow the timely and reproducible modification of various cowpox virus strains.
The developed tools are currently used to characterize the cowpox virus proteome and to identify virulence and host range proteins. Finally, our aim is to to generate novel and safe cowpox virus-based vector vaccines.