Inovio to test 'prime and boost' vaccine strategy with ChronTech and Transgene Print
By Deborah Sterescu - ProactiveInvestors.com   
Monday, 18 April 2011 14:14
Inovio Pharmaceuticals (AMEX:INO) said Monday it has signed a deal with French biopharm company Transgene (EPA:TNG) and Swedish vaccine developer ChronTech Pharma to test a vaccination strategy that involves a repeat "boost" approach.

The strategy, which consists of an initial prime vaccine followed by a boost of the same vaccine, will be tested in a phase one clinical trial for a therapeutic hepatitis C vaccine candidate.

The companies will use different prime and boost vaccines with the goal of obtaining a clinical effect by inducing different immune responses, they said.

The phase one study, to be started later this year, will use ChronTech's plasmid DNA vaccine delivered by Inovio's in vivo electroportation device as the prime, followed by Transgene's TG4040 vaccine as the boost.

"We are pleased to participate in this collaboration to develop a potentially more potent HCV [hepatitis C virus] vaccine combination approach and to contribute Inovio's electroporation delivery technology and its well-validated ability to transform the potency of DNA vaccines," said Inovio president and CEO Dr. J Joseph Kim.

Chronic hepatitis C, with a disease prevalence exceeding 170 million worldwide, is notoriously difficult to treat as current therapies have serious side effects.  The infectious disease affects the liver, and can lead to liver failure or cancer.

ChronTech's DNA vaccine was already tested using Inovio's delivery device, and was reported to be safe, generating antigen-specific immune responses. In a phase one study, 83% of participants who were monitored for an extended period of time were free of the virus six months after they completed standard-of-care treatment.

DNA vaccines are designed to generate broader, cross-protective immune responses across different virus strains, unlike existing vaccines that must be matched to a specific serotype. When used to deliver DNA vaccines, Inovio's electroportation systems can increase levels of immune responses by 100 times or more compared to DNA delivered without other delivery enhancements.

In preclinical studies, the three companies also said that the "prime and boost" approach showed greater immune responses than those seen with vaccines injected separately.

Under the collaboration agreement, the companies will share the study costs. The new phase one trial will enroll 12 patients with chronic hepatitis C at a site in Germany.

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