Peanut Vaccine on the Horizon

in Food Allergy, Peanut & Tree Nut
Published: December 12, 2011

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If the clinical trials are successful, will this immunotherapy cure a child’s peanut allergy?

“The idea here is to induce immunological tolerance. So what you’re doing is switching the immune response of the individual away from that of an allergic individual to behave more like that of a non-allergic individual. Although ‘cure’ is a difficult word, that is essentially the goal.”

How would the vaccine work? For instance, I’m peanut allergic. Would I get a one-time shot?

“I envisage that you would receive three to six injections.”

There are studies in which children were given small, increasing amounts of peanut flour to consume. The studies have been largely successful, but some participants had reactions before succeeding with tolerance.

“We have a completely different approach. The biggest difference between our vaccine and the oral food allergy therapy research is that feeding the daily peanut flour can be associated with unpleasant side effects, and it doesn’t seem to induce long-lasting tolerance. Our vaccine is looking to change the immune response and to induce immunological tolerance that is long lasting. And ours doesn’t require daily feeding with peanut. The reason we’re sort of giddy with excitement is that we’ve found that each of the subjects’ [immune systems] recognized one or more of our candidate peptides. That’s why we’re confident that one vaccine will work in all patients with peanut allergy.”

The possibility of a peanut vaccine is truly exciting. What are the next steps?

“First, we need to get the GMP peptides [synthesized, purified peptides adhering to good manufacturing practices], which we should have in about three years; then toxicology studies, which take 18 months; then we could begin the early-phase clinical testing.”

In the hunt for a peanut allergy treatment, there is your work, the oral immunotherapy studies, heat-killed bacteria vaccine studies and so on. Is this a bit of a race to the best solution?

“It’s not so much a race. The research is more of a team effort, not a competition. We all want to find a treatment for this very alarming and growing problem.”