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Vaccine Investment Gets A Shot In The Arm

This article was originally published in Start Up

Executive Summary

The vaccine industry has had its ups and downs the last two decades, as public opinion and investor perception has influenced both the use and production of these preventative medicines. It’s traditionally been a difficult space for smaller companies due to the financial hurdles, but a handful of start-ups, including TremRx, Selecta Biosciences Inc., Genocea Biosciences Inc. and Imaxio SA, all profiled in this issue, are banking on progress in delivery and development technology to help them raise financing for their vaccines programs.

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Targovax AS

Dendreon’s prostate-cancer treatment Provenge demonstrated that the concept of rallying the body’s immune system to fight cancer actually can work. Norwegian start-up Targovax AS is one of many companies working to commercialize peptide vaccines intended to rouse the immune system and train it to recognize cancer. Its pancreatic cancer treatment is injected into the skin, so that peptides can be taken up by dendritic cells, which then carry the peptides off to the lymph nodes and present them to T cells, which then enter the body’s circulation with a potential to kill, or stimulate the killing of, cancer cells.

Genocea Biosciences Inc.

Genocea Biosciences Inc. is one of a growing number of companies betting that it can stimulate the body’s T-cell response against particular antigens, and so create vaccines against pathogens never before bested by man, such as malaria, herpes and chlamydia. Like others working to develop new vaccines, Genocea suspects that the ability to conjure cellular immunity on demand could offer not only prophylaxis, but also therapeutic options to individuals already infected by pathogens. Many believe that T-cell-stimulating vaccines could eventually help people whose own cells have become cancerous.

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