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PeptiVir’s four researchers are working on creating “cross-protective” antibodies that could potentially protect people against the influenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), parainfluenza, HIV, Ebola and coronaviruses such as SARS.
Each of these viruses shares a common feature. They have a surface protein that binds the cells to the host and an infusion protein that infects the host. The problem is that the binding proteins undergo a lot of mutations, making it difficult to develop a universal vaccine against these viruses.
“With normal seasonal flu vaccinations, you get an immunization before the season with the version of that protein we think will infect you that year,” said PeptiVir Chairman Richard Duke. “But these proteins mutate a lot.”
While getting a new flu shot every year is annoying, these mutating proteins can cause a lot more problems. Because they can interact with animal versions of a virus — think avian or swine flu — they can lead to pandemics.
Those who are exposed to and survive pandemics tend to have antibodies that protect against cross-infection. The PeptiVir technology allows researchers to create a synthetic version of these antibodies, which would allow for protection against multiple strains.
The PeptiVir platform could lead to long-term vaccinations for certain viruses we currently cannot protect against.
With cancer patients, this technology could help antibodies in isolated proteins that are often overwhelmed by complex protein structures, increasing the effectiveness of the antibody.
PeptiVir launched in 2010 with a $300,000 loan from the Colorado Institute for Drug, Device and Diagnostic Development, an organization that helps turn research into product development.
At any one time, the CID4 looks at 20 to 30 ideas, evaluating the economic viability of bringing the idea to market. Duke happens to be the CEO of CID4.
“In the case of PeptiVir, they were heads above the crowd in terms of therapeutics,” Duke said. “They also fit into our model of investing in providing active management where our money could lead to something.”
The platform technology was developed by University of Colorado Biochemistry Professor Robert S. Hodges.
Outside funding is critical in an industry where products can take years to develop without any ROI. In fact, even if PeptiVir had enough funding today to start clinical trials, which would test on animals, it couldn’t actively start the trials for another year.
CID4 has helped PeptiVir raise an additional $450,000 in grant funding since the company was founded.
The idea is that PeptiVir will not make the actual vaccination. Instead, it will partner with a larger company that will then complete additional trials and, if applicable, use the technology to develop an actual vaccine.