Immunovaccine Inc. and Leidos have announced they will collaborate on developing a vaccine against the mosquito-borne Zika virus and infection, which may be linked to neurological birth defects. This collaboration is the first to expand on Immunovaccine’s previously announced research project in which the company will apply its DepoVax™ platform to development of a Zika virus vaccine candidate. The project builds upon earlier promising results with DepoVax™ vaccines targeting the Ebola virus, anthrax and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
“While we remain focused on immuno-oncology, collaborations with partners like Leidos allow us to expand the use and potential value of our platform technology in other applications and markets. This first collaboration on a Zika virus vaccine builds on our previous success in developing candidate vaccines that show promise in providing one-dose, fast-acting protection,” said Frederic Ors, Immunovaccine Acting Chief Executive Officer.
Under the terms of the agreement, Leidos will utilize its Virtual Pharmaceutical Development Program to lead an antigen discovery and development team to identify the best candidate antigens for protecting against infection by the Zika virus. Immunovaccine will then formulate new antigens in its DepoVax™ delivery system for pre-clinical testing. Together, the companies hope this project could serve as a replicable model for expediting the development and manufacture of vaccines to address current and future health emergencies.
“Our virtual pharma approach ensures that we are not beholden to a particular technology or laboratory,” said Leidos Deputy Group President, Jerry Hogge. “We are able to seek the best solutions to suit the project at hand. This includes our partnership with Immunovaccine, which leverages the best capabilities of both companies.”
Immunovaccine’s proprietary DepoVax™ adjuvanting delivery platform has been shown in multiple studies to produce a strong, high-quality immune response that has a specific and sustained immune effect with the potential for single-dose effectiveness. The platform has been shown to extend exposure of the immune system to practically any antigen and can be readily combined with other vaccine development strategies.
“The understanding of the Zika virus and its public health threat is expanding almost daily. With current vaccine development models, there is too long between identification of risk of an epidemic and the creation of an effective vaccine. With Leidos as a partner, our new approach has the potential to compress that timeline,” added Marianne Stanford, Ph.D., Immunovaccine’s Director of Research.
“With more than 25 years of experience in healthcare, and a commitment to developing the most cutting-edge technology, Leidos is focused on solving unmet medical needs and neutralizing emerging biological threats to improve the world we live in,” said Jim Pannucci, Leidos Director, Life Sciences. “This strategic collaboration enables us to achieve our goals to build a better future.”
Immunovaccine anticipates that preclinical testing of the Zika virus vaccine candidate will be performed in Canada, where the company is already collaborating with the scientific community, including Gary P. Kobinger, Ph.D., Chief of Special Pathogens of the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, Manitoba.