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2020 saw a major addition to our priorities as the dreadful COVID-19 pandemic struck our nation and the world.

The Team at VIC rapidly pivoted during a couple of crucial weeks in March to address clear unmet medical needs for new diagnostics, treatments and a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2. Most importantly, we leveraged our ongoing Department of Defense funded rapid vaccine development platform, VaxCelerate, to target the coronavirus. To this end we partnered with a new biotechnology company, Voltron Therapeutics Inc., to take our new COVID-19 vaccine, called HaloVax, from bench to bedside on an accelerated timeline.

  • The VIC team is working with its academic collaborators and Voltron Therapeutics to develop a new vaccine, utilizing its VaxCelerate platform, designed to protect individuals from infection from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
  • VaxCelerate is designed to speed up the development of new safe and effective vaccines. It consists of two components that can both be manufactured rapidly:
  • A base that activates the immune system and is very stable and can be stockpiled—in this case, the base is a protein that evokes a broad antiviral immune response to anything attached to it
  • A spearhead that can be rapidly generated to help to direct this response—peptides and small proteins unique to the virus that are identified through a computational analysis of the viral genome
  • For SARS-COV-2, VIC already has a stock of the base in house and has identified peptides from the virus’ genome to target with the vaccine. This will be the team’s third time working to go from genome to vaccine, having previously displayed proof of concept with the Lassa Fever virus.
  • VIC is pioneering technologies that will help us understand what makes an effective immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection.
  • VIC is working with a leader in antibody technology and assay development, the locally based Cell Signaling Technology, to profile the antibody response in depth. We are using this information to make a tool to guide safe return to work and to design optimally protective vaccines.
  • VIC’s High Dimensional Immunology program allows us to visualize the immune system in unparalleled detail, so we can identify the critical steps that lead to severe disease and show key elements of immunity that helps guide vaccine development.
  • VIC is working with Analog Devices, Inc. (ADI) in conjunction with Multerra, Inc. to validate new methods to monitor cytokines in the blood of patients with moderate and severe COVID-19 infection to help guide clinical management of the vulnerable patients.
  • VIC is partnering with Veralase LLC to develop and commercialize a novel vaccine adjuvant (vaccine-enhancer) technology that promises to boost vaccine efficacy.
  • This jointly developed technology has the potential to increase the efficacy of a novel Coronavirus vaccine by coupling intradermal injection with a unique laser adjuvant device.
  • The device is intended to boost vaccination outcomes for all, but especially for older people.
  • In addition, this intradermal vaccine enhancement technology aims to provide excellent efficiency while avoiding the typical side effects for patients including pain, inflammation and soreness that is associated with chemical adjuvants.

Highlighted Publications

First published: 29 April 2020 Eric A. Meyerowitz, Augustin G. L. Vannier, Morgan G. N. Friesen, Sara Schoenfeld, Jeffrey A. Gelfand, Michael V. Callahan, Arthur Y. Kim, Patrick M. Reeves, Mark C. Poznansky

MedRXiv, June 20, 2020. 

Tyler E Miller, Wilfredo F. Garcia Beltran, Adam Z. Bard, Tasos Gogakos, Melis N Anahtar, Michael G. Astudillo, Diane Yang, Julia Thierauf, Adam S. Fisch, Grace K. Mahowald, Megan J. Fitzpatrick, Valentina Nardi, Jared Feldman, Blake M. Hauser, Timothy M. Caradonna, Hetal D. Marble, Lauren L. Ritterhouse, Sarah E. Turbett, Julie Batten, Nicholas Z. Georgantas, Galit Alter, Aaron G. Schmidt, Jason B. Harris, Jeffrey A. Gelfand, Mark C. Poznansky, Bradley E. Bernstein, David N. Louis, Anand Dighe, Richelle C. Charles, Edward T. Ryan, John A. Branda, Virginia M. Pierce, Mandakolathur R. Murali, A. John Iafrate, Eric S Rosenberg, Jochen Lennerz