PROVIDENCE, RI – June 9, 2015 – The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) is investing $5.2 Million for the development of a new type of vaccine against Q fever. Academic and industry organizations from around the world, led by Mark Poznansky of the Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center (VIC) and Massachusetts General Hospital and Annie De Groot of EpiVax (Providence, Rhode Island) have joined forces to focus on rapid vaccine development for emerging infectious disease. The VaxCelerate consortium includes collaborators from Colorado State University in Fort Collins; InnatOss Laboratories in Oss, the Netherlands and Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.
EpiVax contributes first in class immuno-informatics tools to speed the pace of vaccine development and provide rapid clues about the likelihood of success in human trials. “EpiVax has worked hard to be at the forefront of the ‘vaccines on demand’ concept. Their selection as a partner in this project recognizes their leadership in terms of developing safer, more efficient vaccines and improving our national biodefense rapid response capabilities,” stated U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee. “I hope their success in competing for federal contracts and awards will help protect public health and boost national preparedness against emerging infectious diseases and bio-threats.”
DTRA’s funding efforts such as the VaxCelerate consortium has come on the heels of progressive outbreaks of new infectious diseases including SARS, H1N1, MERS-CoV and Ebola, for which vaccines were never successfully deployed or only were released at the end of the epidemic. Following a delayed response to the H1N1 flu in 2009, the U.S. federal government has made major investments in rapid vaccine manufacturing approaches for influenza and has established a number of efforts that can accelerate the pace of development for new vaccines.
The VaxCelerate effort received early funding from the Defense Advanced Research Programs Agency (DARPA), and integrates cutting-edge technologies into an end-to-end vaccine development process. The consortium was able to successfully develop and test a new vaccine for Lassa fever in 120 days, starting only from genomic data on the virus. The current Q fever project focuses on development of an RNA-based vaccine that will promote protective responses against the Q fever bacteria without the potential safety issues that prevent existing vaccine candidates from receiving US regulatory approval for use in humans.
EpiVax is a unique biotechnology company based in Providence, Rhode Island with expertise in immunology and immunoinformatics, and a proven track record in the fields of immunogenicity screening, deimmunization, and immune modulation. Through the utilization of computational tools, EpiVax is helping engineer safer, more effective therapeutic proteins and rapidly design protective and efficacious new vaccines.
About Q Fever
Q fever is a worldwide disease with acute and chronic stages caused by the bacteria Coxiella burnetii. Cattle, sheep, and goats are the primary reservoirs although a variety of species may be infected. Humans are often very susceptible to the disease, and very few organisms may be required to cause infection.