Welcome to Tokyo!

Yes! it’s true! – we’re in Tokyo! Sarah MonizGuilhem Richard (CTO of EpiVax Therapeutics) and I touched down on Friday and have been checking out Tokyo landmarks (aka lots of walking) over the weekend. We are beyond thrilled to reconnect with our old friends and colleagues this week! Send me a message if you’d like to see us for a meeting near Tokyo station – we have some openings!

And of course, the main event in Tokyo is the 15th annual Westin Immunogenicity Seminar on Friday. Registration is free (no virtual option). We’ll hear from Naonobu Sugiyama (Pfizer), Grant Blouse (former Catalyst, now working for a stealth startup), Jeonghoon Sun (now MultiVerse), and friends and collaborators Vibha Jawa (BMS), Takuya Tsunoda (Showa) and Susumu Uchiyama (Osaka) and others. My talk is on “Immunogenicity is Personal, Regional and Global” because that’s my latest obsession (I’m not always thinking about ... BTS!) (OK, well yes, I am, so enjoy the link to my latest favorite song by J Hope of BTS with J Cole!)

The Seminar takes place THIS Friday, September 29th. All events (with cocktail hour!) will be located at the Westin Tokyo Hotel in Meguro, Tokyo, Japan. Why do we do this? To bring the joy of science to the field of immunogenicity. 

Dreaming of Peptides

Who knew that peptides would be HOT HOT HOTWell, University of Tokyo professor Hiroaki Suga knew it! He founded PeptiDream, a company that just earned a billion BioBucks from Roche/Genentech who are now investing in … peptides!  Meanwhile, more peptide news, NovoNordisk recently unseated LVMH as Europe’s most valuable company, and the Wegovy/Ozempic drugs (semaglutide) are reshaping (literally and figuratively) the Norwegian economy (and Elon Musk, too, apparently).

Why do immunogenicity nerds like me (and Amy Rosenberg, to name another one) care? Because… when you make a peptide drug synthetically, mistakes happen. And when they do, those ‘impurities’ can be immunogenic. (See our paper on peptide impurities here).

Novel peptides can be immunogenic too. Take a look at the immunogenicity risk assessment of retatrutide, a triple agonist described in a recent NEJM article. This peptide has limited T cell epitope cross-conservation with the human genome, and it has an EpiBar. Will be be immunogenic? ISPRI Mavens, tell me what you think!  (Hint, see the EpiMatrix analysis in our last newsletter, here.)

Epi-Tools Rock Zika!

The latest Epi-paper is out! We took aim at Zika with Chris Eickhoff and Dan Hoft of Saint Louis University, seeking to define the best epitopes to target Zika virus infection. Chris and Dan compared two methods for epitope identification: one involving peptide arrays covering the virus’s genome and another using peptides selected using immunoinformatics tools (the iVAX toolkit, of course!).

Long story short? The predictive algorithms outperformed overlapping peptide approaches, especially in identifying broadly relevant epitopes across the population. This strategy should greatly aid the development of T cell targeted ZIKV vaccines for diverse populations. Congratulations on your great new paper Chris and Dan!

Be Well! Stay Happy! And get your new COVID vaccine … I did! #VaccinesWork!