In March 2023, RVAC Medicines and the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) announced a collaboration to pursue the development of mRNA vaccines to “modulate the body’s normal immune response as possible treatments” for “certain autoimmune diseases and allergic conditions”. The focus will be on potential vaccines for food allergies and selected autoimmune indications. 

Unmet medical needs 

A statement from RVAC indicates that autoimmune diseases and allergic reactions or conditions comprise “rising unmet needs” that require “more treatment options” for patients across the globe. Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system becomes “oversensitive” to harmless proteins and triggers an attack on the body itself.  

The US NIH “more than 80 autoimmune diseases”, some of which are well known, and others that are “rare and difficult to diagnose”. Many have “no cure”. RVAC suggests that these diseases have “risen steadily in recent years”. Indeed, an average annual increase of 3% to 9% represents a “growing global health concern”. Allergic reactions or conditions are caused by the immune system being triggered against a “harmless allergen” such as foods or animals.  

Addressing these needs 

In response to the needs identified above, Dr Drew Weissman of the Perelman School of Medicine at Penn is bringing his team to a collaboration with RVAC to “develop and optimise mRNA vaccine candidates”. The goal is to “induce immune tolerance, thereby reducing the chances of autoimmune responses”.  

Dr Weissman describes allergic reactions and “inappropriate autoimmune responses” as “difficult and restrictive” conditions in people’s lives. 

“We are excited to begin this collaboration for certain conditions that currently have imperfect and incomplete therapies.”  

Dr Sean Fu, CEO of RVAC, is also excited, calling Dr Weissman a “pioneer in the field”.  

“With this collaboration, we want to develop mRNA vaccine product candidates with the potential to improve lives of patients who suffer from certain autoimmune diseases and allergies.”  

Dr Jason Zhang is RVAC’s Chief Scientific Officer and is “very glad” to work with Dr Weissman for a “broad spectrum” of conditions.  

“This collaboration will apply the mRNA technologies to induce antigen-specific immune tolerances, and RVAC is committed to becoming a leader in this field.”  

For more detail on the myriad possibilities presented by mRNA approaches, join us at the World Vaccine Congress in Washington this April. Dr Drew Weissman and his lab have been shortlisted for a VIE award at the Congress. To view the lists for each category click here!