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The companies will use GeoVax’s vaccine technology to develop malaria vaccine candidates.
GeoVax Labs, a clinical-stage biotechnology company specializing in the development of human vaccines, announced on March 4, 2019 that it has expanded its collaboration with Leidos, a defense, aviation, information technology, and biomedical research company, to develop malaria vaccine candidates.
The collaboration will be supported under a contract to Leidos from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Malaria Vaccine Development Program (MVDP). USAID appointed Leidos to advance promising vaccine candidates against Plasmodium falciparum malaria and selected the GeoVax Modified Vaccinia Ankara- (MVA) and virus-like particle- (VLP) based platform as part of this development effort.
GeoVax’s vaccine technology is based on its live MVA platform, which generates vaccine antigens in the form of multimeric proteins or noninfectious VLPs in the individual being vaccinated. Gene sequences of target antigens are inserted into the MVA genome, which drives their expression and budding from the infected cells. In this way, vaccination strategy mimics a natural viral infection which induces two pools of proteins-virus-infected cells and released multimeric, or VLP, proteins, according to GeoVax.
“Currently there is a shortage of malaria vaccine candidates that can offer the high efficacy rates (e.g., >75%) set by the World Health Organization as a requirement for the second-generation malaria vaccines. Although protein-derived vaccines can deliver multiple antigens in immunogenic VLP conformation, they hardly produce a balanced functional cellular immune response needed to confer a high protection,” Farshad Guirakhoo, PhD, GeoVax’s chief scientific officer, said in a company press release. “In contrast, vectored-derived live vaccines are capable of producing the appropriate balanced immune responses, but they suffer from limitations in delivering the required number of transgenes needed to protect against all stages of malaria parasite. GeoVax’s MVA–VLP platform can overcome both limitations of antigen conformation and transgene capacity by delivering multiple transgenes (e.g., from parasite’s liver stage, blood stage, and mosquito stage) in the form of VLPs delivered in vivo. This new collaboration with Leidos complements our ongoing malaria vaccine development project with Burnet Institute in Australia and offers multiple opportunities for success.”
“Our hope is to successfully proceed through product development and identify promising vaccine candidates that can be taken into clinical development as quickly as possible, demonstrating an effective, safe vaccine for malaria prevention,” commented David Dodd, GeoVax’s president and CEO, in the press release. “We are confident that our technology, combined with Leidos’ has an excellent chance for success.”
In November 2018, the companies announced an earlier collaboration on an immunotherapy research program. The project includes the design, construction, and characterization of multiple immunotherapeutic vaccine candidates using GeoVax’s MVA–VLP vaccine platform combined with certain peptide PD-1 checkpoint inhibitors developed by Leidos. The vaccine design, construction, and characterization will be performed at GeoVax with further analysis conducted by Leidos.