New developments for cancer vaccine underway

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Calviri, Inc. is a biotech startup that spun out of Arizona State University Biodesign Institute. It is focused on prevention and treatment of cancer. One of the core focuses of Calviri is developing an RNA-based vaccine for cancer.

Calviri is currently conducting a cancer prevention clinical trial with the help of man’s best friend. These are not dogs in a lab, but people’s pets who visit the vet regularly. Calviri’s Preventative Cancer Vaccine Trial is showing great promise and results and potential positive side effects in their health. They hope to eventually translate the cancer vaccine to apply to people too.

Dr. Stephen Johnston, founder and CEO of Calviri, Inc., joins Ted to discuss the current clinical trail.

“To make a vaccine against cancer, you have to have something that makes it look foreign, and people were looking at DNA for a long time,” said Johnston. “We decided to look at the RNA level, in which we discovered that there’s a lot of shared foreignness between different tumors, and so we focused on RNA.”

The vaccine’s biological foreignness is based on frameshift neoantigens, which are foreign pieces of protein. For a tumor to survive in the body, it creates these neoantigens. The immune system can recognize these as a foreign object and treat them as if they were an infection.

“You’re trying to take advantage of its Achilles’ heel,” said Johnston. “Vaccines look very very safe, they have a long history, cancer vaccines in particular.”

In Calviri’s clinical trail, 400 dogs have received the cancer prevention vaccine and have not experience safety issues. As Johnston points out, these dogs are people’s pets that willingly enrolled in the study.

“Eight hundred people brought in their dogs, we screened them to make sure they did not have a tumor, then we enroll them, split them into a control arm and a vaccine arm, and gave them a vaccine,” said Johnston. “Now we’re monitoring to see if they get a tumor or not.”

Johnston said that the study has two major finding so far: the vaccine does not pose any safety risks, and it seems feasible to make a preventative cancer vaccine.

Dr. Stephen Johnston/Founder & CEO, Calviri, Inc.

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