SAN DIEGO -- Epimmune Inc. today announced that it has received a five-year, $16.7 million contract from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for the design and development of prophylactic HIV vaccines for clinical evaluation by the NIAID-sponsored HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN). The award was made under the NIAID's HIV Vaccine Design and Development Teams (HVDDT) program whose goal is to fund development of promising vaccine concepts with plans for targeted testing in humans. Epimmune will lead a consortium that will include Bavarian Nordic A/S in Denmark and SRI International and Althea Technologies, both in the U.S.
Epimmune will use its proprietary epitope technology to identify epitopes, or protein fragments, from conserved regions of multiple HIV virus proteins for use in candidate vaccines. The focus on conserved epitopes and the inclusion of epitopes from multiple viral gene products should make it harder for the virus, which is known to mutate rapidly, to escape the vaccine-induced immune response. Epimmune and Bavarian Nordic will jointly test a multi- epitope vaccine that will be delivered to humans three ways, as DNA formulated in a polymer to enhance potency, using Bavarian Nordic's proprietary viral vector MVA-BN, a strain of Modified Vaccinia Ankara (MVA), and as a combination of the two. SRI International will conduct a portion of the development work and provide project management expertise. Althea Technologies will manufacture the DNA vaccine for Epimmune.
Dr. Emile Loria, president and CEO of Epimmune said, "The award of this contract following a competitive review process is strong validation of the multi-epitope vaccines developed at Epimmune and already being pursued by the Company in therapeutic areas including infectious diseases and cancer. In the HIV population, we believe our vaccine offers significant hope in managing the disease among HIV-positive patients considering drug resistance is occurring earlier and earlier."
Dr. Mark Newman, vice president of infectious disease programs at Epimmune said, "This contract further expands our efforts to develop epitope-based vaccines. The HVDDT program will allow Epimmune to test the benefits of our epitope vaccines in a prophylactic setting. It also complements the on-going Phase I/II therapeutic HIV trial we are conducting in collaboration with scientists at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, with NIAID support, and the prophylactic HIV trial the HVTN is conducting in the U.S. and Botswana, Africa. Both of those clinical trials are being conducted with our EP HIV-1090 DNA vaccine candidate."
Epimmune Inc., based in San Diego, is focused on the development of pharmaceutical products using multiple epitopes to specifically activate the body's immune system.
Source: Epimmune Inc.