Affinivax Launches as a New CompanyBy
Affinivax Inc., a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotechnology company developing vaccines, has launched as a new company with a $4-million investment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This commitment from the Gates Foundation also includes additional investments in Affinivax based on the achievement of future success-based milestones. Proceeds from the funding will be used to develop Affinivax's Multiple Antigen Presenting System (MAPS) technology platform and enable the development of vaccines in both the developed and developing worlds, with an initial focus on the company's lead drug program for Streptococcus pneumonia.
The company also has secured an exclusive license from Boston Children's Hospital to the intellectual property related to the MAPS technology platform, initially developed at Boston Children's by Richard Malley, MD, Affinivax's scientific founder and Kenneth McIntos, chair in pediatric infectious diseases at Boston Children's Hospital.
MAPS is suited to target many complex diseases, such as those caused by mucosal pathogens, for which both antibodies and T cells play important roles in immune protection. A MAPS vaccine combines protective polysaccharides and proteins in a single vaccine and induces a broad protective immune response. The MAPS technology uses non-covalent binding between biotin and rhizavidin, which the company says offers a simple, modular, and efficient approach to develop conjugate vaccines against a wide range of diseases. A MAPS vaccine is distinct from conventional conjugate vaccines that are designed to only optimize antibody responses to the polysaccharide antigen and do not induce a sufficient and consistent immune response to the protein antigen. By also using the functionality of conserved and protective B and T cell protein antigens from target pathogens, a MAPS vaccine induces a much broader and protective immune response against disease, according to the company.
In Affinivax's MAPS vaccine against Streptococcus pneumoniae, proprietary protein antigens enable the potential for an additional antibody response to protect against disease due to a broader range of pneumococcal serotypes, as well as a T-cell response to reduce nasopharyngeal colonization, the first and essential step in pneumococcal infection, according to company information. The company has achieved preliminary preclinical proof-of-concept for several MAPS vaccines and is currently advancing its lead vaccine against Streptococcus pneumoniae to clinical proof-of-concept.