Allergy vaccine being developed
VTT Ventures Oy is involved in launching a spin-off company, Desentum Oy, to develop new-generation allergy vaccines. The company’s business is based on a technology patented by VTT. Bringing the vaccines to market will require years of research, testing and licensing.
The method patented by VTT involves using gene technology to change the structure of the allergen, i.e. the protein that causes the allergy, so that it causes less severe symptoms but still functions as an allergy desensitisation treatment.
Desentum Oy aims initially to develop a product line of 20 to 25 new hypoallergens that could function as vaccines against the principal allergens, such as birch, grass and ragweed pollen, pet allergens and food proteins (fish, nuts, apple, celery).
The allergy vaccine development is based on the scientific breakthrough made five years ago, in a joint project run by VTT, the University of Eastern Finland and the Skin and Allergy Hospital of Helsinki University Central Hospital, in which scientists demonstrated how an allergen and an IgE antibody bind to one another. The scientists were the first to describe the precise 3D structure of this bond, which proved to be different from the prevailing assumption of scientists worldwide. This structural description led to two significant discoveries concerning the general structural properties of allergens, which in turn facilitated the development of vaccines for safer and more effective allergy desensitisation treatments.
The aim is to create a vaccine that can be taken orally in tablet form. The first products are expected to enter clinical testing within three years.
Because the incidence of allergies and severe allergic reactions has increased, these are now considered to be one of the top five disorders in industrialised countries in terms of health care costs. In Finland, more than 20% of the population suffers from a type I allergy, where the sensitising agent is an environmental allergen.
In the USA alone, the market for allergy medicines is expected to exceed USD 15 billion by 2015. The market potential for the new allergy vaccines was estimated at about USD 700 million in 2010.
CEO, VTT Ventures Ltd
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