ImmusanT launches U.S. trial for celiac vax

Riding the wave of a successful Phase I trial down under and $20 million in VC funding, Massachusetts biotech ImmusanT has launched a clinical trial in the U.S. for Nexvax2, its experimental vaccine to treat celiac disease.

The idea behind Nexvax2 is to boost a patient's tolerance to the gluten protein, the underlying culprit of the autoimmune disorder. The U.S. trial builds upon initial findings that the three peptides included in the vaccine have the potential to induce tolerance. A celiac disease sufferer cannot process gluten, which in turn damages the lining of the small intestine.

The biotech will continue testing efforts in Australia and New Zealand through Phase Ib trials, in addition to the U.S. trial. This time around, ImmusanT has partnered with Becton, Dickinson ($BDX) to use the latter's intradermal injection tech to administer the vaccine.

Making the success of a potential celiac vaccine all the more crucial is the lack of treatment options. There is no known cure for the disease, but celiac sufferers can usually manage the condition through a gluten-free diet--eliminating foods that contain wheat, barley and rye. Even so, a gluten-free diet isn't a cure-all. Some patients continue to suffer symptoms, including intestinal damage. 

Nexvax2 is a matter of if and when: If the vaccine is successful and makes it onto the market, it won't happen until 2017 or so.

- check out the ImmusanT release

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