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Published On: Mon, May 2nd, 2016

Pharos to begin Phase 1 clinical trials of its Zika vaccine candidate this fall

Pharos Biologicals, LLC (Pharos) has been awarded the exclusive worldwide licenses for a patented Lysosome-Associated Membrane Protein (LAMP) DNA vaccine technology, as well as for certain nanotechnologies to deliver the vaccines, by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The worldwide licenses are for use in the development and delivery of vaccines for influenza and flaviviruses.

Aedes aegypti Image/CDC

Aedes aegypti
Image/CDC

Pharos was formed in December 2015 by J. Thomas August, M.D., University Distinguished Service Professor of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences and Oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology. The initial focus of the company is on the Zika vaccine development, to be followed by vaccines for dengue and influenza viruses.  The company anticipates that it will be ready to begin Phase 1 clinical trials of its Zika vaccine candidate by autumn of 2016.

The LAMP technology was validated commercially in October 2015 when a license awarded by Johns Hopkins to Immunomic Therapeutics, Inc. for allergen vaccines was sold to Astellas, a global pharmaceutical company, for $300 million.

The LAMP technology, invented by Dr. August, represents a breakthrough in the application of DNA vaccines by the use of normal cellular mechanisms to enhance the immune response to the vaccine. Most vaccines use a weakened form of a pathogen in which a live, but reduced virulence version of the virus is introduced into the body. The LAMP DNA vaccine is not a live virus vaccine, has a more rapid development timeline, delivers the pathogen antigen directly to cell proteins that bring about immunological responses, and is highly stable.

The threat that Zika virus poses is growing, with the WHO declaring a state of Public Health Emergency of International Concernon February 1, 2016, and it is expected that travel-associated cases will increase (http://www.cdc.gov/zika/geo/). The virus can also be spread by sexual transmission, which potentially raises the risk of spread.

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