+Timos Papagatsias

Monday, 21 February 2011

It all started with EpiMatrix...

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Applying computational approaches to immunogen selection and modification has set new standards in vaccine design. Consider codon optimization, a method which allowed scientists to circumvent codon usage bias in order to achieve high levels of difficult-to-express proteins outside their native hosts. Codon optimization has helped immensely in the development of HIV prototype vaccines where viral genes (gag, env, pol etc.) were expressed in the absence of the Rev-RRE system.

Achieving efficient expression of a vaccine agent in the target tissue/cell, however, does not always guarantee the desired immunogenic effect; and this is where companies like EpiVax can be very useful. Using the tools and technologies available by the company, one can identify putative T cell epitopes (EpiMatrix), MHC Class II epitope clusters (ClustiMer), human(or other species)-like peptides (BlastiMer), de-immunize a protein sequence (thereby creating alternative candidates with altered immunogenic profiles) (OptiMatrix-in combination with their DeFT service) and finally identify conserved epitopes (Conservatrix) in multiple sequences of highly mutating pathogens, such as HIV. The company has also recently introduced VaccineCAD, which is a vaccine-design algorithm that assists in alignment of selected immunogenic epitopes in a vaccine construct, avoiding (or at least reducing) the formation of "nonsense" epitopes, usually appearing at junctions between consecutive epitopes. If you want to check out the web versions of all of EpiVax's tools, head over to the iVAX website.

EpiVax looks a promising company with services that are already finding their way in multiple stages of vaccine design. In addition, we are convinced that its DeFT service can have a significant impact in the field of Gene Therapy, where de-immunization of transgenes is of paramount importance. The company has received several awards from the NIH and it is now making good strides in establishing itself as an one-stop-shop for immunoinformatics. For some more information, here is an article by EpiVax's Founder, CEO and CSO, Dr Annie De Groot.

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