Immunotherapy has advanced greatly over the last decade as a way to treat many diseases and is now recognised by researchers, clinicians, regulators, and industry. It has significant advantages over other therapies including fewer side effects, ability to overcome immune tolerance, and greater specificity for achieving longer-lasting results.
Two billion people have been infected with the Hepatitis B virus (HBV) globally, despite the availability of preventative vaccines. While most cases clear naturally, 10 percent will develop chronic HBV infection, an incurable and life-threatening disease. Chronic HBV can lead to liver cirrhosis and cancer and in the worst cases, liver transplantation is required.
Avalia Immunotherapies, a Wellington UniVentures spin-out company, may have the solution. The vaccine therapies directly stimulate a powerful immune response in the liver. This generates memory T cells which have the long-term ability to fight off cells infected with HBV. It has been reported in recent scientific journals that this family of T cells are a potential key to curing HBV infection.
When formed in 2015, Avalia commercialised a joint research project between Victoria University of Wellington’s Ferrier Research Institute and the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research with the assistance of Wellington UniVentures (formerly Viclink). The goal was to develop vaccine therapies that stimulate the body’s immune system to treat or prevent infectious diseases and cancer. This has led to a powerful technology platform that has been patented and licensed to the company for commercial development. The founding investment from Wellington UniVentures, along with continuous support in obtaining further investment, has helped make all this possible.
Features and benefits
Effective and safe
While only 10 percent of Hepatitis B sufferers will move into chronic infection stages, the risk is significantly higher in babies who contracted the disease from their mother. 90 percent of these cases will progress to chronic HBV infection. The technology that Avalia Immunotherapies offer can greatly help these babies that would otherwise suffer from a life-long illness.
Avalia continues development of a variety of products using their technology platform which includes preventative vaccines for malaria and influenza along with therapies for virus-associated cancers and solid tumours.