Affinivax, a new biotechnology company focused on vaccine development, has been launched with help from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has invested $4 million in the new firm and may be making additional investments based on the achievement of future milestones. The new company plans to use those funds to develop its Multiple Antigen Presenting System (MAPS) technology platform and also to develop novel vaccines its says will protect children and adults in both the developed and developing worlds. Affinivax' initial focus will be on its lead drug program for Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus), which the firm is currently advancing to clinical proof-of-concept.
The new firm has also secured an exclusive license from Boston Children's Hospital to the intellectual property related to the MAPS platform, which was initially developed at Boston Children’s by Richard Malley, M.D., Affinivax’ scientific founder and the Kenneth McIntosh Chair in Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Boston Children’s. MAPS vaccines, according to Affinivax, combine protective polysaccharides and proteins to induce a broad protective immune response.
In its MAPS vaccine against Streptococcus pneumoniae, the company says, protein antigens enable the potential for an additional antibody response to protect against disease due to a broader range of pneumococcal serotypes, as well as a T-cell response to reduce nasopharyngeal colonization, the first step in pneumococcal infection. Dr. Malley said in a statement that this candidate has the potential to be the first vaccine of its kind and could provide broader immune protection than is currently available today.
“It is unacceptable that pneumonia remains the leading cause of death among children under five,” Trevor Mundel, president of Global Health at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, commented. “We are enthusiastic about Affinivax’ vaccine program targeting pneumococcal pneumonia because it is urgent that we reach all children with the vaccines they need.”