After many years of stagnancy in the herpes therapeutics field, a real tight race is happening among 3 biotechs in the immunotherapy field: Agenus and Genocea, both situated in Massachusetts, Vical in San Diego. These 3 biotechs are speeding ahead to develop a vaccine for herpes.
The goal of these companies is to make develop a vaccine targeting individuals who have herpes but the ultimate goal of each company platform is to delve into a wide preventative vaccine of STI on the population.
On top of this, an Australian biotech Admedus announced positive early clinical results of their own genital herpes vaccine. Read the full article here. Tomegavax, located in Oregon, is using Gates-funded research to make its own path in developing its own vaccine too.
This tight competition is an indication of a lucrative market. Herpes is a chronic viral infection that affects 50 million Americans in the US and one out of six Americans age 14 to 49 have this virus.
In terms of treatment and vaccination, herpes has been a notorious disease. Big pharmacies dabbled in developing herpes vaccine, but GlaxoSmithKline was noteworthy for its epic flop. Compared to controls, it actually triggered even more outbreaks in women. This is the main reason why recent developments of herpes vaccines are very promising.
The “WHYs” of this come down to how the virus and most vaccines work. Herpes stays dormant within the nerve cells, evading the immune response effectively, and then activating itself at full blast during a recurrent viral shedding period. This is when an infected person is very contagious.
Recently, standard vaccine usually guards the B cells of the immune system, siccing on invaders and successfully producing antibody response. On the other hand, this approach has not impacted the course of herpes. The newer vaccine methods are mobilizing the T-cell response to lessen the viral load.
Genocea may be a few steps ahead of the race, but the triumvirate’s all in the Phase II vicinity and making positive results. They have got similar trial protocol, which is to boot.