PROVIDENCE, RI — 04/27/2005 — EpiVax, Inc., a leading provider of protein and genome analysis services, vaccine components, and vaccine candidates to researchers, government agencies, universities and pharmaceutical companies, today announced that it was awarded a $600,000 Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The grant award will be used to develop a “genome-derived, Epitope-driven Helicobacter pylorus (H. pylori) vaccine.”
“H. pylori affects millions of Americans, and we are pleased that the NIH continues to recognize the potential of our technology,” stated Anne De Groot, M.D., president and CEO of EpiVax, Inc. “This grant award will help us focus our research and development efforts in this disease state in an expedited manner. When the genome of H. pylori was published in Science magazine in 1999, I remember pinning the multicolor centerfold graphic of the genome to my Brown University laboratory bench, declaring ‘one day, we’ll make a vaccine for that bug.’”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), H. pylori is a spiral-shaped bacterium that is found in the gastric mucous layer or adherent to the epithelial lining of the stomach. H. pylori causes more than 90% of duodenal ulcers and up to 80% of gastric ulcers. Before 1982, when this bacterium was discovered, spicy food, acid, stress, and lifestyle were considered the major causes of ulcers. The majority of patients were given long-term medications, such as H2 blockers, and more recently, proton pump inhibitors, without a chance for permanent cure. These medications relieve ulcer-related symptoms, heal gastric mucosal inflammation, and may heal the ulcer, but they do NOT treat the infection. When acid suppression is removed, the majority of ulcers, particularly those caused by H. pylori, recur. Approximately two-thirds of the world’s population is infected with H. pylori. In the United States, H. pylori is more prevalent among older adults, African Americans, Hispanics, and lower socioeconomic groups. Approximately 25 million Americans suffer from peptic ulcer disease at some point in their lifetime. Each year there are 500,000 to 850,000 new cases of peptic ulcer disease and more than one million ulcer-related hospitalizations.(1)
EpiVax has garnered three SBIR grants in the past six months; bringing the total NIH research dollar infusion for the Providence-based vaccines and therapeutics company to $2.5 million. Dr. De Groot says she’s been matching the NIH dollars with vaccine and biotherapeutics industry research contract dollars, and she predicts that her company will match or exceed the stunning growth of other vaccine companies in just a few years.
EpiVax have been pioneering a completely new concept in vaccinology using genomes as the starting point for development. Given the mass of protein sequences (sometimes more than 1,000 genes), The Company uses an array of computer-driven tools to troll through the genes, “fishing” out the ones that look like exciting candidates for vaccine design.
In fact, Dr. De Groot suggests that this approach can be applied to any of the more than 300 full-length bacterial genomes that have been published to date. EpiVax has been vocal proponents of a new concept in vaccine design that has been termed immunome-derived vaccine design. They are applying their proprietary tools to the development of no less than four new vaccines for infectious diseases including HIV, Tuberculosis, Smallpox and Tularemia.
EpiVax will be hosting a tutorial session featuring their immunoinformatics tools at the Providence “Vaccine Renaissance” Conference, scheduled for June 8-9 of 2005. Visit the EpiVax website http://www.epivax.com/ for more information on the conference.
About EpiVax, Inc.
Based in Providence, EpiVax, Inc. is dedicated to the Intelligent Design® of new vaccines and therapeutics. EpiVax merges in vitro immunology research with bioinformatics to generate new vaccines for infectious diseases such as HIV, TB, hepatitis and avian influenza, new therapeutics for cancer and autoimmune diseases, and new protein therapeutics for treatment of cancer and autoimmune diseases. Epitope mapping, the selection of target peptides from an antigen, is a powerful resource for the development of novel vaccines. EpiVax research shows that peptides chosen by EpiMatrix™ for synthesis and testing are highly likely to provoke an immune response when presented to T cells. Epitopes are the most concise piece of information required by the T cell to generate an immune response. EpiVax tools and products are improved versions of tools derived from research initially carried out at the TB/HIV Research Laboratory at Brown University. The Company has partnerships with such leading life science companies as Amgen, Eli Lilly, Genentech, and Pfizer. For more information of EpiVax, please visit http://www.epivax.com/.
(1) Division of Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases Helicobacter pylori and Peptic Ulcer Disease http://www.cdc.gov/ulcer/md.htm