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VaxDesign offers an alternative to animal studies

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Time magazine profiles the work of VaxDesign, a five-year-old biotech company that has developed simulated human immune systems, mixing blood cells and faux tissue into a special construct that can test a vaccine--"clinical trials in a test tube." Their idea is that a simulated immune system can replace time-consuming animal tests, which have limited value in their ability to indicate an actual human response. Better indications of efficacy at an earlier stage might help prevent large-scale human trials that fail to reach their intended endpoints--as in the recent fiasco involving Merck's AIDS vaccine, which may have heightened volunteers' risk of contracting AIDS. With VaxDesign's MIMIC system, the small immune systems test whether a vaccine will spur the needed antibodies into action.

"The information you get from this type of test is far and beyond what you'd get out of a mouse study," says Michael Rivard, vice president of corporate development at VaxDesign, "both because it's humans and because you can see the effect across a spectrum of genotypes."

- read the article in Time

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