Heat Biologics and University of Miami Collaborate on Zika Vaccine Development

October 25, 2016

Heat Biologics will collaborate with the University of Miami on the development of a Zika vaccine using the company’s gp96 platform.

On Oct. 25, 2016 Heat Biologics announced that the company has entered into an agreement with the University of Miami for the license and development of a portfolio of patents leveraging its gp96 platform to target the Zika virus and other infectious diseases. Heat has formed a wholly-owned subsidiary, Zolovax, to focus on the development of gp96-based vaccines targeting Zika, HIV, West Nile, dengue, and yellow fever.

The Zika program will be developed at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine under the direction of Natasa Strbo, MD, DSc, a reproductive immunologist, who is focused on researching the immune system’s interaction with the placenta. Strbo is also a co-developer of Heat’s gp96 platform and has spent many years advancing the platform as a vaccine against malaria and HIV.

In a statement, Heat Biologics said the placenta is believed to play a role in Zika virus transmission from mother to fetus. Researchers have observed pathological changes in Zika-infected placentas, suggesting that the placenta’s naturally protective barrier function is impaired during Zika infection. Heat believes that the robust mucosal immune response generated by gp96 in ongoing studies supports the development of a gp96 vaccine that could also stimulate a Zika-specific immune response in the placenta, thus protecting the fetus from virus transmission.

“Miami has become the epicenter for Zika transmission in the US,” Strbo said in a statement. “Current approaches against Zika have not been shown to protect the placenta or transmission of Zika to the fetus. In [National Institutes of Health] NIH-funded studies, a gp96-based vaccine effectively protected primates from acquiring the SIV virus and induced T-cells to infiltrate cancer tumors after human vaccination. This led us to hypothesize that a gp96 vaccine might stimulate a similar virus-specific response in the placenta of Zika-infected women that could clear the virus and protect the fetus. We are currently pursuing this approach in our preclinical studies.”

Source: Heat Biologics