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Our Science

The Arenaviruses

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 a novel and highly differentiated delivery platform based on arenaviruses. Our scientists can engineer these viruses 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.

Arenaviruses, specifically LCMV (Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus), have been used for decades in research and have been the tool of choice for many important scientific discoveries because they are 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 re-engineered 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.

 

In 1974, Professor Zinkernagel used LCMV, the prototype member of the arenavirus family, to identify MHC restriction - a discovery that was recognized with his Nobel Prize in 1996. Based on this discovery, Professor Zinkernagel, and scientists Daniel Pinschewer, Lukas Flatz and Andreas Bergthaler co-founded Hookipa. Today at Hookipa, we have largely overcome our biggest scientific challenge, redirecting the exceptionally potent T cell response to LCMV against cancer and infectious diseases-specific antigens.

Hookipa controls a broad IP portfolio covering the entire arenavirus family in prophylactic and therapeutic settings.