Oh-My cron hits Rhode Island
I’d like to start by saying Happy New Year! My resolution for 2022 is to hold onto Hope and Joy. To combine both concepts in one eyeful, ->here<- are the three J’s: J-Hope, Jimin, and Jungkook dancing to Megan Thee Stallion‘s rendition of the BTS hit, Butter! Pure joy in the forms of dance keeps me going, honestly. So, despite Oh-My cron, as you’ll read below, I really am optimistic that we can be good Humans. There is so much talent out there (I mean you!). It certainly can’t get worse than 2020 and 2021!
And yet, COVID-19 refuses to quit, and this current surge had me working overtime at Clínica Esperanza/Hope Clinic here in Providence. As you may have seen from my LinkedIn post, we had a 50-76% positivity rate… at our free clinic for the uninsured. So, I’ve been up to my eyeballs in Rapid Tests (did you know that they correlate with infectious viral load?) and trying to keep my staff members from getting COVID.
Enough about Oh-My cron for now…
Lets Talk T cells
There is really great news out there for the vaccinated and boosted. #VaccinesWork! Here are some key articles: an MMWR showing that among 1,228,664 persons who completed primary vaccination during December 2020–October 2021 the risk of hospitalization is dramatically reduced and that, yes, T cells contribute to that protection! (take a look – maximum protection is actually observed at 120 days when antibody is declining!). And mRNA boosters do help! While I’m at it, shout out to my new favorite podcast TWIV that has weekly clinical updates, preprint discussions and everything you need to know to survive with COVID.
Long story short, what is truly protecting you against Oh-My cron? Did I hear Nature say T cells? While it is no doubt that the safe, efficacious, and approved vaccines for COVID-19 are highly effective still, antibodies generated by the vaccines are less effective against the new variant. Seems to me that it’s Time for T!
At EpiVax, we think the answer to addressing variants lies in T cell biology. Current COVID-19 vaccines rely on an antibody response through B cell pathways. This is the traditional approach in vaccine design, and it clearly works. Though T cells provide significant protection against severe diseases, as is summarized in our paper. Here’s a nice overview on T cells and COVID in the WSJ. And, here is another good paper showing that T cell response to the common cold can offer cross-protection against subsequent COVID-19 infection.
We’re very proud of our forthcoming T cell epitope-driven vaccine. EPV-CoV19 contains >200 individual T cell epitopes found in the SARS-CoV-2 virus. That high number means that even if several epitopes are lost to viral evolution as new variants emerge, our vaccine may still be highly effective. For example, the vaccine has 98.2% epitope conservation for the omicron variant, and the range of conservation is over 95% for all identified variants.
In short, while current approved vaccines do trigger a T cell response, a vaccine developed to specifically harness the power of T cells may provide more effective, longer-lasting protection that will persist, despite viral variation. We believe that a T cell epitope-driven vaccine is what is needed to bring this pandemic under control.
Actually in Amsterdam
We really enjoyed organizing an in-person meeting in Amsterdam after a 2-year hiatus. Thank you to everyone who attended! It was great to see old friends, and the 6th Annual Immunogenicity & Tolerance Seminar was truly a success! We had outstanding talks on Host Cell Proteins in the Astra Zeneca COVID Vaccine, Natalizumab Immunogenicity, the Intravacc COVID vaccine, and the metabolism of Tregs, among other topics… and it was sooo great to discuss science in person!
Now here’s another treat! Many of our speakers have graciously agreed to allow us to share their talks from the seminar. You can request the recorded talks on our website here.
EpiVax on iTunes
Yes, that’s right! We’ve got a podcast! “Recipes for Success” in November 2021. Each episode will be a free-wheeling discussion on a variety of scientific topics… and we do it over dinner! We will feature a new recipe and new set of guests for each show. And I couldn’t do it without my esteemed co-host Katie Porter!
Our pilot episode is a discussion of the experiences of women in the biotechnology industry featuring Vibha Jawa (BMS), Sophie Tourdot (Pfizer), and Amy Rosenberg (Formerly FDA, now EpiVax).
Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or listen through the EpiVax page.
4th Treg Directed Therapies Summit
Please join me this May 17-19th in Boston! I will present on Tregitope Formulation Challenges & Solutions to Maximize Antigen-Specific Tolerance for Allergy, Transplant or Autoimmune Indications. Here’s the link to register!