PROVIDENCE, R.I., Sept. 12, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- EpiVax, Inc., "immune engineering" pioneer, has won a new $600,000 National Institutes of Health grant under the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program to improve a vaccine for the problematic H7N9 avian influenza virus. The vaccine development program will be directed by Annie De Groot, M.D., EpiVax CEO/CSO, and Lenny Moise, Ph.D., EpiVax Director of Vaccine Research, and carried out in collaboration with Ted Ross, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Infectious Diseases, and Director, Center for Vaccines and Immunology, University of Georgia.
H7N9 influenza has earned the moniker "stealth virus" for the ability to evade the human immune response, both in natural infection1 and in vaccine formulations2. H7N9 vaccines developed using conventional methods have significantly underperformed in the clinic3,4,5. EpiVax's SBIR-funded avian influenza research program aims to re-engineer H7N9 viral proteins to be more easily detected by the immune system, resulting in a more potent vaccine product. The first version of the optimized influenza vaccine designed by EpiVax will soon enter a Phase I trial in Australia, in collaboration with Vaxine and Protein Sciences Corporation.
Dr. Manon Cox, Protein Sciences CEO, said, "We are pleased to work with EpiVax in exploring the potential to immune engineer better, safer, and more effective vaccines."
This SBIR-funded avian influenza program will explore "camouflage" sequences in the virus and further validate the discovery of regulatory T cell epitopes (Tregitopes) in human pathogens, a novel means of immune escape now known as "immune camouflage."6
EpiVax is one of the founding members of Rhode Island's expanding biotechnology community. "We are fortunate to have Dr. Annie De Groot and her team conducting innovative biotech research here in Rhode Island," said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. "This federal funding is a boost for EpiVax's work to engineer new vaccines and is an investment in Providence's life sciences industry."
EpiVax, Inc., is a privately held biotechnology company focused on the development of vaccines and immunotherapies for infectious diseases, autoimmunity and cancer. Led by Dr. Anne S. De Groot, M.D., and Bill Martin, thought leaders in the new field of vaccine design, the immunoinformatics team at EpiVax has developed the cloud-based ISPRI and iVAX toolkits, used by a global roster of companies to design and optimize therapeutic proteins and vaccines. More at www.epivax.com.
Side-stepping Immune Camouflage and Stealth Pathogens to make Better Vaccines
Scientific studies validating the "stealth virus" and "immune camouflage" concepts are described in greater detail in publications by De Groot and Moise that are freely accessible on PubMed.
NIH funding statement
Research reported in this release is supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health under grant number R43AI118189. The content of this press release is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.
Dr. Annie De Groot
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SOURCE EpiVax, Inc.