Affinivax, a novel vaccines company, launched with a $4 million investment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
In October of 2014, Affinivax announced its launch with a $4 million investment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a Multiple Antigen Presenting System (MAPS) technology platform. The intellectual property related to the MAPS platform was exclusively licensed to Affinivax from Boston Children’s Hospital. The MAPS vaccine platform has the potential protect children and adults in both the developed and developing worlds. The company will initially focus on the company’s lead drug program for Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus).
The MAPS technology provides a highly stable, modular, and efficient approach to develop vaccines against a wide range of diseases. The platform was developed at Boston Children’s by three members of the Infectious Diseases division: Richard Malley, MD, Affinivax’s scientific founder and the Kenneth McIntosh Chair in Pediatric Infectious Diseases, Fan Zhang, PhD, Instructor in Pediatrics and Yingjie Lu, PhD, Assistant Professor. MAPS development was supported by Boston Children’s Hospital’s Translational Research Program (TRP), Boston Children’s Technology Development Fund (TDF), and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The TDF support included business mentorship and funding for the construction and evaluation of MAPS pneumococcal vaccine candidates and immunogenicity studies of these constructs in a small animal model.
“MAPS vaccine platform is very clever in its simplicity to generate a broad and protective immune response to multiple antigens,” said Monique Yoakim-Turk, PhD, Managing Partner of the Technology Development Fund. ”It is exciting to see that BCH internal programs (TDF and TRP) were able to support this project to the point of a startup investment that will bring much needed vaccines to market. “
Cells do all the work
MAPS is uniquely suited to target many complex diseases, such as those caused by mucosal pathogens, for which both antibodies and T cells play important roles in immune protection. A MAPS vaccine combines protective polysaccharides and proteins in a single vaccine and induces a broad protective immune response. The MAPS technology capitalizes on the highly specific and durable non-covalent binding between biotin and rhizavidin.
A MAPS vaccine is distinct from conventional conjugate vaccines that are designed to only optimize antibody responses to the polysaccharide antigen but do not induce a sufficient and consistent immune response to the protein antigen. By also using the distinct functionality of conserved and protective B and T cell protein antigens from target pathogens, a MAPS vaccine induces a much broader and protective immune response against disease.
“I am very excited about the launch of Affinivax and the opportunity to realize the full global potential of this new approach to vaccines,” said Dr. Malley. “The company’s lead candidate targeting pneumococcal disease offers the potential to be the first vaccine of its kind, where both the protein and polysaccharide components contribute to provide broader immune protection than is currently available today.”
Affinivax has achieved preliminary preclinical proof-of-concept for several MAPS vaccines and is currently advancing its lead vaccine candidate against Streptococcus pneumoniae.