Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP), caused by a yeast-like fungus, is a serious and life-threatening illness seen in people with damaged immune systems, particularly those with HIV infection. MiniVax, a vaccine company based in New Orleans, has developed a DNA vaccine based on a fragment of a Pneumocystis protein, kexin, that has potential to prevent pneumonia. The fragment, code-named mini-Kexin by the company, is the same across a number of different species of the fungus.
In animal studies, mice were given the vaccine--a plasmid that codes for the protein fragment--three times, three weeks apart and then infected with Pneumocystis jiroveci. The vaccine protected the mice against the infection, reducing the amount of fungus found in their lungs. The data was presented at the 2012 America Thoracic Society (ATS) conference.
The vaccine, MVX504, is MiniVax's lead program, and the next step for the company will be to move it towards clinical trials, which are likely to begin in 2013. The company is also developing a monoclonal antibody that could be used to treat Pneumocystis pneumonia.
Dr. A. Ray Chaudhuri, MiniVax's CEO, stated, "[w]e are very excited about the results of current tests for our PCP vaccine. We look forward to approaching the FDA soon regarding this vaccine and getting it to the people who need it."
- read the press release
- see the abstract (PDF)