Providing the Foundation for Responding Rapidly to Infectious Disease Threats
It’s been another headline year for infectious diseases. Ebola made way for Zika in the public consciousness and raised a great deal of speculation about which disease might become the next threat. Tuberculosis continues to rise as a leading cause of death from infectious disease around the world, particularly with the emergence and spread of drug resistant strains.
The world needs faster and more flexible responses to outbreaks, and policy makers must know how to prepare in advance. At IDRI, we are focused on how to make sure the best technology will be available, not only during outbreaks
but also to combat age-old diseases that still are in need of new solutions.
Our mission is to apply innovative science to develop products that will eliminate infectious diseases. To accomplish this, we focus on developing broadly applicable platform technologies.
One of our key platform technologies is adjuvants, substances added to a vaccine to boost the body’s immune response. We are a world leader in this field and produce adjuvants that are used in our own vaccines for tuberculosis, leishmaniasis and leprosy, as well partner with other organizations to develop vaccines for HIV/AIDS, hookworm, pandemic influenza, schistosomiasis and other diseases.
Our expertise in adjuvant technologies has led to the first scientific project under the Global Health Vaccine Center of Innovation (GHVCI), a collaboration formed in 2015 among IDRI, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Sanofi Pasteur. We are using IDRI’s adjuvant technology to develop a vaccine for enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC), a diarrheal disease that targets both children in developing countries, as well as travelers – including military members – to those regions.
We now want to use adjuvant technology in a different way, beyond vaccines. Adjuvants can be used as host-directed therapy (commonly known as immunotherapy in the cancer field), by combining them with a drug or using them on their own, in cases where drugs don’t exist. IDRI has pioneered the use of vaccines in combination with drugs to treat drug-resistant parasitic diseases in humans in South America. We will continue these efforts, which can be applied to many infectious organisms.
The concept of host-directed therapy is based on stimulating the immune system’s natural ability to fight infection. IDRI’s adjuvant technology can accelerate this response as an essential component of host-directed therapy. We are now using this approach for tuberculosis. In South Africa, we are immunizing former tuberculosis patients to prevent recurrence of disease as part of a Phase 2a clinical trial.
Because IDRI’s adjuvants are applicable to many infectious diseases, we can be ready for new diseases. Imagine being able to mount a rapid response without having to know what the pathogen is or have a specific drug that targets. We believe this is possible.
Another platform is founded on developing vaccines based on RNA, a genetic material responsible for producing proteins. RNA can be mobilized to develop vaccines more quickly than the traditional method of protein production. We have developed an RNA platform that could allow more rapid development of new vaccine candidates for emerging infectious diseases. Potentially,
we could create a vaccine to combat a new outbreak in 2-3 days, rather than the months it cannow take to develop a new vaccine. In partnership with the National Institutes of Health, we are now applying this approach to Zika.
At IDRI, our ultimate goal is to improve the health of the world. Using platform technologies, we’ll be able to rapidly develop vaccines that can combat outbreaks, while creating new solutions for deadly diseases that have plagued humankind for thousands of years.
While IDRI’s novel tuberculosis vaccine candidate, ID93+GLA-SE, continues to move forward in a Phase 2a trial in South Africa, IDRI scientists are turning their sights to a host-directed approach for …