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The companies will collaborate on the development of vaccines to expand GeoVax’s cancer immunotherapy program.
On Jan. 3, 2018, GeoVax Labs, a clinical-stage biotechnology company specializing in the development of human vaccines, announced a collaboration with Vaxeal, a company focused on developing therapeutic vaccines in combination with immuno-modulatory drugs, for the expansion of GeoVax’s cancer immunotherapy program.
GeoVax’s immuno-oncology program is based on its Modified Vaccinia Ankara- (MVA) and virus-like particle- (VLP) based platform, which generates noninfectious VLPs in the patient being vaccinated. In this platform, gene sequences of target antigens are inserted into the MVA genome, which drives their expression in infected cells.
Through this process, vaccination induces two pools of antigens, virus-infected cells and released VLPs, as targets for the immune response. According to GeoVax, this strategy mimics a natural viral infection, triggering the body to produce a robust and durable immune response with involvement of both antibodies and T cells.
The platform is believed to target certain tumor-associated antigens including cancer embryonic antigen, prostate specific antigen, and cell surface associated mucin 1, which are produced in large quantities or abnormal forms. These antigens are often recognized as abnormal by patients’ immune systems, but are not sufficiently immunogenic to trigger a successful immune response against the tumor. Subsequently, the tumor antigens must be presented to the body in a different form or method to enlist the patient’s own immune system in fighting the cancer, according to the company. The MVA-VLP platform is believed to help train a patient’s own immune system to selectively seek and destroy the cancer cells bearing such antigens.
This collaboration will include the design, construction, characterization, and animal testing of vaccine candidates. Vaccine antigens will include Vaxeal’s patented sequences.
“We are pleased to begin this collaboration with Vaxeal to further expand GeoVax’s promising cancer immunotherapy program. This project will be complementary and mutually exclusive to our ongoing collaboration with ViaMune, Inc. for co-developing cancer immunotherapies based on the MUC1 tumor-associated antigen,” said Farshad Guirakhoo, PhD, GeoVax’s chief scientific officer, in a company press release. “We intend to pursue additional collaborations with leading research institutions and others with their novel cancer antigens or technologies suitable for use with our MVA-VLP platform.”