Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Chemical Engineering (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Chemical Engineering


Caryn Heldt


Viral infections account for over 13 million deaths per year. Antiviral drugs and vaccines are the most effective method to treat viral diseases. Antiviral compounds have revolutionized the treatment of AIDS, and reduced the mortality rate. However, this disease still causes a large number of deaths in developing countries that lack these types of drugs. Vaccination is the most effective method to treat viral disease; vaccines prevent around 2.5 million deaths per year. Vaccines are not able to offer full coverage due to high operational costs in the manufacturing processes. Although vaccines have saved millions of lives, conventional vaccines often offer reactogenic effects. New technologies have been created to eliminate the undesired side effects. However, new vaccines are less immunogenic and adjuvants such as vaccine delivery vehicles are required.

This work focuses on the discovery of new natural antivirals that can reduce the high cost and side effects of synthetic drugs. We discovered that two osmolytes, trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) and glycine reduce the infectivity of a model virus, porcine parvovirus (PPV), by 4 LRV (99.99%), likely by disruption of capsid assembly. These osmolytes have the potential to be used as drugs, since they showed antiviral activity after 20 h. We have also focused on improving current vaccine manufacturing processes that will allow fast, effective and economical vaccines to be produced worldwide. We propose virus flocculation in osmolytes followed by microfiltration as an economical alternative for vaccine manufacturing. Osmolytes are able to specifically flocculate hydrophobic virus particles by depleting a hydration layer around the particles and subsequently cause virus aggregation. The osmolyte mannitol was able to flocculate virus particles, and demonstrate a high virus removal, 81% for PPV and 98.1% for Sindbis virus (SVHR). Virus flocculation with mannitol, followed by microfiltration could be used as a platform process for virus purification. Finally, we perform biocompatibility studies on soft-templated mesoporous carbon materials with the aim of using these materials as vaccine delivery vehicles. We discovered that these materials are biocompatible, and the degree of biocompatibility is within the range of other biomaterials currently employed in biomedical applications.