Industry-Sponsored Research Week

Mass General inks sponsored research deal with Voltron Therapeutics to develop COVID-19 vaccine

By David Schwartz
Published: April 7th, 2020

Massachusetts General Hospital’s Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center (VIC) has entered into a sponsored research agreement with Voltron Therapeutics, Inc. to co-develop a new vaccine designed to protect patients at risk of COVID-19 infection. The research will focus on leveraging the Self-Assembling Vaccine (SAV) platform developed by the VIC and licensed exclusively to Voltron. HaloVax, a biopharma company and special purpose subsidiary of Voltron, will spearhead the project.

The vaccine is expected to enter animal testing by the end of April 2020, followed by safety studies. The deal builds on a longstanding partnership between Voltron and MGH, which have worked together on vaccines to fight other infectious diseases and cancer. This partnership will rely on application of VaxCelerate, the SAV platform licensed from the VIC at MGH for vaccine development. The VaxCelerate platform was developed to improve patient outcomes by engaging the immune system to identify and target certain pathogens or cancer cells.

“This is a global pandemic, which requires a partnership and strength of the leading minds in this space. By joining forces with the VIC, we believe we can develop a solution that will eradicate this threat quickly and efficiently. Data in four animal models in both infectious disease and oncology suggest the SAV’s unique flexibility may have a clinically relevant impact in a number of settings,” said Voltron CEO Pat Gallagher. “Partnering with the VIC is a considerable move forward for Voltron’s vaccine portfolio and developing an agent effective against this virus. We look forward to addressing the global health challenges of emerging infectious diseases and bringing the spread of COVID-19 to a halt.”

Added VIC Director Dr. Mark Poznansky, “The self-assembling vaccine has been designed to be highly adaptable, designed for safety and allows for seamless modifications in the face of potential genetic changes in the pathogen. Our goal is to rapidly develop and test a vaccine that could help the population at large, and especially individuals who are at increased risk for the most serious complications of COVID-19 infection.”

The SAV platform incorporates a heat shock protein that activates the immune system in contrast to other vaccines, which use chemical adjuvants like alum. The vaccine consists of a fusion protein between a heat shock protein and Avidin. Biotinylated immunogenic peptides are then incorporated to customize the vaccine.

Source: Pipeline Review

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