ImmusanT to develop Type 1 diabetes vaccine with JDRF backing

Vaccine
JDRF plans to do more than just support ImmusanT with a VC investment, and will engage in a collaboration on the project. (Guschenkova / iStock / Getty Images)

ImmusanT is expanding its vaccine immunotherapy platform to include Type 1 diabetes, following an investment from the JDRF.

While the amount was undisclosed, it was the foundation’s first direct investment in both the company and in peptide-based immunotherapies, through its venture philanthropy-focused T1D Fund.

“We believe ImmusanT’s platform could deliver a transformative therapy for T1D, along with a better understanding of the antigens that are driving this disease,” said Jonathan Behr, managing director at the JDRF T1D Fund.

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“We will support the company beyond our capital investment, collaborating to ensure ImmusanT has the highest chance of success,” Behr added.

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With the money, ImmusanT hopes to translate insights from its celiac disease program into the development of a novel vaccine for Type 1 diabetes.

The company’s lead vaccine, Nexvax2, has shown safety and activity in phase 1 studies in celiac disease, a disorder that shares many similarities with Type 1 diabetes—both are linked to types of genetically inherited human leukocyte antigens, which encode certain regulators of the immune system and are associated with autoimmune diseases.

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ImmusanT completed its first phase 1b trial of Nexvax2 in February 2017, aiming to protect celiac patients from the effects of exposure to gluten and symptoms such as diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating. In 9 of out of 10 cases celiac disease is thought to be caused by a mutation in the HLA-DQ2 gene.