EpiVax, Inc., an immune engineering pioneer, has been awarded a $600,000 grant from the National Institute of Health through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The immunology company plans to improve a vaccine for the H7N9 avian influenza virus.
The CEO and chief security officer Annie De Groot, M.D and the director of vaccine research Lenny Moise, Ph.D will lead the vaccine development program and will collaborate with Professor Ted Ross, Ph.D from the Department of Infectious Diseases and director for Center for Vaccines and Immunology from the University of Georgia.
H7N9 influenza is also known as a stealth virus because it can evade the human immune response through natural infection and in vaccine formulations. The development of the vaccines using conventional methods was significantly unsuccessful so the SBIR funding the avian influenza research program will help create H7N9 viral proteins. It will enable the immune system to easily detect and possibly result to a more effective vaccine.
“We are pleased to work with EpiVax in exploring the potential to immune engineer better, safer, and more effective vaccines,” said Dr. Manon Cox, Protein Sciences Corporation CEO. The first version by EpiVax is set to enter a Phase I trial in Australia with Vaxine and Protein Sciences.
The SBIR-funded avian influenza program will also explore “camouflage” sequences in the virus and also confirm the discovery of “immune camouflage” or also clinically known as T cell epitopes in human pathogens.
“We are fortunate to have Dr. Annie De Groot and her team conducting innovative biotech research here in Rhode Island,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island in the US. “This federal funding is a boost for EpiVax’s work to engineer new vaccines and is an investment in Providence’s life sciences industry.”