Okairos AG, a biotechnology company based in Basel, Switzerland, recently began a Phase II study of a gene-based vaccine for the prevention of the hepatitis C virus (HCV). The company’s developmental vaccine has been designed to stimulate the body’s immune system to block HCV from getting a foothold in a patient’s body. The study is being funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. It is a collaboration between Okairos and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
There is no preventive vaccine for HCV yet, which according to the World Health Organization (WHO) affects approximately 170 million people globally. WHO cites contaminated blood transfusions, organ transplants, contaminated syringes and needle-injection drug use as the most typical modes of HCV transmission. Unlike other vaccines that stimulate antibodies, this HCV vaccine stimulates a T cell response, a type of white blood cell. Okairos plans to evaluate the vaccine in a multicenter study involving approximately 350 people.
“We’ve opened up a new path that will allow us to address a number of diseases, hepatitis C being the first one,” said Tom Woiwode, Chief Operating Officer at Okairos AG.