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GeoVax Labs partners with Emory University to develop HPV vaccine

GeoVax Labs is joining forces with Emory University to develop a therapeutic vaccine for human papillomavirus infection, with a specific focus on head and neck cancer.

The GeoVax/Emory collaboration will include testing GeoVax’s MVA-VLP-HPV vaccine candidates in therapeutic animal models of HPV in the laboratory of Rafi Ahmed, director of the Emory Vaccine Center.

Ahmed is a world-renowned immunologist whose work in the past 10 years has fostered an understanding of memory T cell differentiation and T and B cell-mediated antiviral immunity.

GeoVax’s vaccine technology is based on its Modified Vaccinia Ankara, or MVA, Virus-Like Particle, or VLP, platform, which generates noninfectious VLPs in the individual being vaccinated.

Gene sequences of target antigens are inserted into the MVA genome, which drives their expression in infected cells. In addition, GeoVax introduces into the viral genome matrix sequences that incorporate antigens into VLPs and simultaneously facilitate their budding from the membranes of infected cells. In this way, vaccination induces two pools of antigens as targets for the immune response – virus-infected cells and released VLPs. This strategy mimics a natural viral infection, triggering the body to produce a robust and durable immune response with involvement of both antibodies and T cells, the company said .

In related immuno-oncology studies in rodent solid tumor models, combination therapy consisting of the GeoVax vaccine designed to target MUC1-secreting tumors plus an anti-PD1 antibody and a protein supplied by ViaMune, successfully arrested progressive growth of the targeted tumors, according to the company.

“We are pleased to begin this collaboration with Emory University to further expand GeoVax’s promising pipeline of preventive and therapeutic vaccines against a variety of infectious diseases and cancers. Our collaboration with Emory on the HPV project is extremely valuable as it was Dr. Ahmed who first discovered in 2006 that the PD-1 pathway could also be exploited by many pathogens to repress normal T-cell function during chronic viral infection, Farshad Guirakhoo, GeoVax’s chief scientific officer, said in a press statement.

“This is an important research area as there are currently no medical treatments for chronic HPV infections, which can lead to the formation of cancerous tumors. We look forward to working with GeoVax on these initial proof-of-concept studies,” Ahmed said in the press statement.
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