Our Arenavirus Platform
The immune system is the body’s natural defense mechanism against pathogens. Our technology is capable of reprogramming or, as we say, “supercharging” the immune response. Our science is based on a novel and highly differentiated delivery platform based on arenaviruses. Our scientists can engineer these viruses and aim to deliver disease-specific proteins, “antigens”, safely and effectively to the immune system. The immune system detects these antigens and builds defenses to target them, killing any cell that expresses them and by inactivating infectious intruders.
Our platform is based on engineering arenaviruses to carry and deliver virus-specific or tumor-specific genes directly in patients to dendritic cells, which are natural activators of killer T cells, also known as cytotoxic T cells, or CD8+ T cells. Arenaviruses have been used for decades as a preclinical tool to study CD8+ T cell responses.
Our co-founder, Rolf Zinkernagel, was awarded a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his arenavirus-based work on how CD8+ T cells recognize virus-infected cells. We believe that arenaviruses have several key advantages which give them the characteristics of an optimal antigen-specific immunotherapy, including:
• ability to induce a robust CD8+ T cell response by directly targeting and activating dendritic cells, which are the most efficient antigen-presenting cells of the body;
• ability to induce a robust antibody response to disease-specific target antigens;
• are not neutralized by vector-specific antibodies, thereby allowing for repeat administration that can boost immune response;
• are self-adjuvanted i.e. do not require an adjuvant to stimulate the immune system; and
• have been observed to be well tolerated in preclinical studies and clinical trials.
We believe we are the first to reengineer arenaviruses for therapeutic purposes. We have created two technologies capable of delivering disease-specific antigens for the prevention and treatment of disease.
The arenavirus family is comprised of 24 currently known species, many of which we believe have potential prophylactic and therapeutic applications. LCMV Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus (LCMV), has been used for decades in research and has been the tool of choice for many important scientific discoveries because it is known to induce the most potent immune responses. Our founder Daniel Pinschewer had the foresight to envision a means by which these viruses could be reengineered to redirect their potent immune response against specific diseases.
In nature, immune responses elicited by arenaviruses only target arenaviruses. It took 21st century technology, drive and perseverance to engineer arenaviruses that elicit the same high-level T cell responses but specifically targeted against other infectious diseases and cancer.