This is our attempt to answer the most commonly asked questions
Have a question? Get in touch
HOW DID THE IMMUNITY PROJECT TEAM COME TOGETHER?
Immunity Project is a nonprofit partnership between Flow Pharma, a biotech firm with a novel HIV vaccine candidate, and Until There’s A Cure, a leading HIV/AIDS non-profit in the San Francisco Bay Area. The vaccine candidate was developed by Dr. Reid Rubsamen, CEO of Flow Pharma and his team, using HIV surface targets identified by statistical analysis of the behaviour of the immune systems of individuals who become infected with HIV but do not progress to AIDS. The team also includes Dr. Charles Herst, Dr. Igor Gonda and Dr. Tikoes Blankenberg.
This work has been made possible by an intensive effort by computer scientists at universities and industry focussed on hacking into the HIV life cycle by analyzing blood from HIV controllers – people who, despite being infected with HIV, have very low viral loads and do not develop AIDS. Statistical analysis of the behaviour of T-Cells from blood from these individuals shows that they attack specific beneficial targets which force the HIV virus to mutate into a weakened state. These targets have been formulated into the Flow Pharma vaccine candidate, which has the potential to turn HIV-uninfected individuals into HIV controllers. This would be truly game-changing in the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
WHY IS THIS TEAM QUALIFIED AND WHY HIV/AIDS?
HOW WAS THE MONEY WE RAISED THROUGH CROWD FUNDING SPENT?
Please also read our research and findings here: Characterization of HIV antigen-specific human CD8+ T cell responses evoked by in vitro priming of cultured Dendritic Cells with peptide-containing biodegradable microsphere vaccine
HOW WILL THIS VACCINE WORK?
If proven effective, our vaccine will turn those who receive it into HIV controllers. HIV controllers are miraculous: they are naturally immune to HIV. Approximately 1 out of 300 of those living with HIV have this incredible super power. To develop our vaccine, we leveraged the work of accomplished computer scientists using statistical analysis to sift through blood samples from HIV controllers, identifying the specific virus surface targets favored by those individuals. These targets were then formulated into a vaccine prototype. This is a completely novel approach to solving this epidemic.
HOW IS IMMUNITY PROJECT’S VACCINE DESIGN DIFFERENT FROM OTHER HIV VACCINE RESEARCH?
ARE YOU TESTING ANY THERAPEUTIC BENEFITS FOR THE VACCINE?
CURRENT HIV VACCINE LANDSCAPE:
|Immunity Project||Other Vaccine Development Programs|
|Contains Live Viruses||No||Yes|
|Presents decoy targets to the immune system||No||Yes|
|Presents highly specific targets to the immune system||Yes||No|
PREVIOUS VACCINE CANDIDATES HAVE SHOWN NO BENEFIT OR HAVE EVEN CAUSED HARM. IS THIS SAFE?
The vaccine is being designed to minimize any safety concerns. We do not use any living or non-living organisms in our formulations. Instead, we use the epitopes of HIV, biodegradable microspheres and previously studied TLR-based immune adjuvants. These chemicals are already being used in FDA approved vaccines or in FDA monitored clinical trials. The epitopes on their own are too small to cause any response so they are encapsulated into microspheres (made of the same material as dissolvable sutures). Our vaccine has the potential to be one of the safest vaccine platforms ever developed.
WHEN DO YOU HOPE TO BEGIN A STUDY IN HUMANS?
After we complete one additional mouse experiment to more precisely determine the dose we need in humans, we will complete construction and validation of our vaccine manufacturing process. Doses produced on that system will be used for our first Phase I study planned for 2016.
IF THE PHASE I TRIAL IN HUMANS IS SUCCESSFUL, WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS?
WHEN MIGHT THE VACCINE BE BROUGHT TO MARKET?
This vaccine will be brought to market once we have proven that it meets the highest standards of evaluation and production. The FDA provides guidelines and oversight towards maintaining these standards.
|Phase I||20-80 participants||Up to several months||Studies the safety of medication/treatment|
|Phase II||100-300 participants||Up to (2) years||Studies in efficacy/safety and dosing|
|Phase III||1000-3000 participants||Up to (1)-(4) years||Pivotal trials studying Studies the safety, efficacy|
|Phase IV||Thousands of participants||One (1) year||Studies the long-term effectiveness, safety; cost effectiveness|
WHAT DOES THE PRELIMINARY RESEARCH TELL US?
The team has conducted experiments with over 400 mice with positive results. Currently, the vaccine works in mice by inducing a cell-mediated immune response. In a petri dish we have been able to induce dendritic cells to take up the microspheres through a process called phagocytosis:
WHAT IS THE STATUS OF THIS RESEARCH BEING PUBLISHED IN A PEER REVIEWED JOURNAL?
Our data has been published in the peer review journal “Vaccine”. Here is a link to the article.
IF THIS VACCINE CANDIDATE IS SO PROMISING, WHY CAN’T YOU GET ENOUGH FUNDS FOR IT FROM GOVERNMENT AND FOUNDATION GRANTS?
We are pursuing funding from all sources including private donors, and foundations. In the future we will be applying for government grants. Traditional funding sources are slow and we are motivated to move Immunity Project with the utmost speed. Therefore, we are continuously testing new methods of fundraising. We will be open sourcing our fundraising tactics for other non profits and mission driven researchers to use.
WHAT MILESTONES HAVE YOU REACHED?
- 2010 – Achilles heel biological markers identified on a HLA restricted basis for HIV
- 2011 – $1 million raised for platform development and animal studies from Microsoft Research
- 2013 – Animal studies successfully conducted with positive results
- 2013 – Partnership formed with Until There’s A Cure, a leading non-profit organization focused on HIV and AIDS, based in the Bay Area
- 2014 – Accepted into Y-Combinator Accelerator Program Winter Batch 2014
- June 2014 – Article describing our vaccine platform published
- Sept. 2015 – Protocol for our next mouse study quantifying potency effect of direct intra-lymph node injection approved by Columbia College of Physicians and surgeons
- Oct. 2015 – Triple Ring Technologies identified as site for manufacturing first batch of HIV vaccine for human clinical use
- Nov. 2015 – Production volume, precision microsphere manufacturing spray drying head designed and tested
- With the help of Azure compute time donated by Microsoft, Immunity Project has run protein folding models to confirm best HIV surface targets for vaccine attack