Local start-up Agilvax, Inc., headquartered in Albuquerque with offices in El Paso, recently announced it has received SBIR funding to develop a vaccine for RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), an acute respiratory infection occurring in young children. The $286,000 grant was awarded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Dr. David Peabody and Dr. Bryce Chackerian, Professors in the Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology at the University of New Mexico, are co-inventors of the VLP (virus-like particles) platform technology. The faculty inventors have been collaborating since 2006 to develop various vaccines from the technology. VLPs are viruses that have had their DNA removed so that they retain their external structure but are unable to replicate. When they are injected into the body, they induce an immune response without causing infection. The technology uses a family of viruses that infect bacteria—called RNA bacteriophages—to construct the VLPs. The bacteriophages can be produced at high yields, are very adaptable to protein engineering and can’t infect people—characteristics that make for a very versatile and useful vaccine platform that can produce vaccines that are highly effective and extremely safe. HPV, malaria, RSV, and Dengue vaccines are currently in development at Agilvax, with NIH pre-clinical support for the HPV and malaria vaccines. The company is also using the VLP technology to develop immunotherapies for cancer treatment. See the Agilvax announcement, reprinted below.
Agilvax Receives SBIR Grant to Advance Development of a VLP Based RSV Vaccine
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) has awarded Agilvax a one-year, $286,000 grant under the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program entitled “Development of a VLP-based RSV vaccine targeting pre-fusion F protein.”
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is responsible for over 30 million new acute lower respiratory infections in children under five, which results in more than 3.4 million hospital admissions, according to the World Health Organization. RSV also impacts adult populations resulting in 177,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths in adults older than 65 years in the United States alone, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Thus, the development of an RSV vaccine is paramount to treat the world’s most vulnerable populations; children and the elderly.
“We are excited to be recognized with this highly competitive award from the NIH,” said Federica Pericle, President and CEO. “This award provides a vital springboard to further the development of our novel RSV vaccine. It also validates our unique VLP platform technology for the development of vaccines against diseases with high unmet clinical need.”
Agilvax (www.agilvax.com) is a biotechnology company that is developing targeted vaccines and cancer stem cell immunotherapies based on a proprietary virus-like particle (VLP) platform technology. The technology integrates epitope identification and immunogenic presentation in a single platform. The Company was founded in 2011 and has headquarters in Albuquerque, NM and offices in El Paso, TX.