HOUSTON (TIP): The University of Houston (UH) has joined hands with an Indian American co-founded biotech company, AuraVax Therapeutics, to develop a ‘differentiated-approach’ vaccine against aggressive respiratory diseases, such as COVID-19.
AuraVax, however, has the option to exclusively license a new intranasal vaccine technology developed by its Indian-American co-founder, Navin Varadarajan, M.D. Anderson Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Houston.
“A safe and durable vaccine is urgently needed to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic that has infected millions of people and caused over 620,000 deaths globally,” Vardarajan stated.
“We plan to stop COVID-19, a respiratory virus, at its point of entry – the nasal cavity – and we believe our intranasal platform is a differentiated approach that will lead to a vaccine with increased efficacy to create sustained immunity to COVID-19,” he said.
Based on pre-clinical experiments, Varadarajan reports his technology not only elicits a mucosal immune response, but also systemic immunity, according to the UoH.
Varadarajan is targeting the spike proteins, which allow infections to penetrate host cells, in his study. The professor also prefers proteins because of their ability to induce strong immune responses, flexibility and scalability, and the absence of infectious particles, as per an UoH statement.
AuraVax describes its vaccine administration platform as ‘next-generation’, one which could be administered at home.
“We are excited to be collaborating with the University of Houston and look forward to future success by advancing the development of this novel intranasal vaccine platform to address a multitude of respiratory viruses, starting with COVID-19. We plan to stop COVID-19, a respiratory virus, at its point of entry — the nasal cavity — and we believe our intranasal platform is a differentiated approach that will lead to a vaccine with increased efficacy to create sustained immunity to COVID-19,” said Varadarajan.
“AuraVax, being created by an UoH professor, is the ideal partner for us, and what better cause than to advance the creation of a vaccine to COVID-19, arguably the primary challenge facing our generation. The partnership has my wholehearted support,” said Amr Elnashai, University of Houston vice president for research and technology transfer.
“The race for more effective ways of vaccinating against COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases has led to a broad and extensive focus on various protective mechanisms of action. Based on pre-clinical work, our technology not only elicits a mucosal immune response, but also systemic immunity. We believe AuraVax has a competitive advantage given the immune responses and a supply chain that is well-suited for widespread distribution and self-administration distribution,” said Dr Varadarajan.