Firm claims nanotechnology could lead to safer, more effective vaccines.

Selecta Biosciences has been awarded a $3 million grant by NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to support the preclinical and early clinical development of a therapeutic nicotine vaccine for use in smoking cessation strategies and to help prevent relapse. The grant will be provided through the NIH’s BRDG-SPAN program, which is designed to bridge the gap between R&D and commercialization of new medical technologies.

News of the funding coincided with Selecta announcing the appointment of Werner Cautreels, Ph.D., as president and CEO. Dr Cautreels was most recently CEO and global head of R&D at Solvay Pharmaceuticals, prior to Abbott Laboratories’ takeover of the business in February.

Selecta’s smoking cessation vaccine is based on its targeted Synthetic Vaccine Particle (tSVP™) technology, which the firm claims mimics the structure of natural pathogens in terms of size, shape, and the sequence of immunological information delivered to immune cells. The tSVP nicotine vaccine is designed to boost nicotine antibody titers above those induced by previous technologies.

Focused on the development of synthetic nanoparticle vaccines based on its tSVP technology, Selecta was founded in 2008 by researchers from Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In April 2009 the firm raised $15 million in a Series C financing round, bringing the total capital raised by Selecta over the previous 15 months to over $30 million.

The firm claims its tSVP platform enables the rational design of vaccines that can efficiently and selectively induce or modify cellular and/or humoral immune responses for therapeutic and prophylactic indications. A range of potential clinical applications are being explored in fields spanning infectious diseases, metabolic disorders, CNS diseases, and inflammatory diseases.

The tSVP technology is designed to deliver antigens and adjuvants within the same biodegradable nanoparticle directly to antigen-presenting cells. Selecta claims this approach maximizes the immune response while minimizing undesirable off-target effects. tSVP vaccines are also able to freely travel to the lymph nodes and cells that mediate antigen presentation, and can be designed to target specific cell types and locations. This capacity to fine-tune features such as selectivity is complemented by the ability to optimize the dosage of antigen and adjuvant released. Selecta claims superior responses can be generated by tSVP vaccines with a fraction of the antigen and adjuvant required by conventional vaccine technologies.

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