Tiny Seattle-based Kineta has reaped $6.8 million of a $13 million grant to fund the development of new adjuvants for vaccines. And the rest of the money will go to Michael Gale Jr. and Michael Katze, two scientists at the University of Washington who will conduct lab and computational biology work on Kineta's adjuvants.
Kineta CEO Charles Magness tells Xconomy the grant money will allow Kineta to add to its staff of 11. The team is probing a pathway that appears to offer a molecular switch for the body's innate immune system. Up until now the developer has been focused on developing antivirals rather than vaccines.
"I'm confident that we'll find new adjuvants and we'll be able to put them on the commercial track," Magness says. "If we're successful, it will probably go into more than one vaccine." Unlike Europe, the U.S. currently doesn't allow the use of adjuvants in vaccines. The boosters are intended to immunize people against new viruses with one shot rather than the traditional two, making vaccines cheaper, stronger and far quicker in spurring an immune response. Kineta's grant money is part of a $60 million package of grants provided recently by the NIH.
"More effective and potent vaccines are in critical need here in the United States and around the world, particularly to address key viral infections, including infections from the influenza viruses and human immunodeficiency virus," says Dr. Gale. "In addition, there is an important need to develop novel adjuvants to support the development of an effective vaccine against hepatitis C virus."