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Alumni Company Q&A: Vaxess Technologies

Disclaimer: the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the individual author, and not to LabCentral or the author’s employer, organization or committee.

As part of our series to profile resident and alumni companies, we take a look at Vaxess Technologies, an alumni company focused on developing MIMIX™ smart-release vaccines that has pivoted during the pandemic to address COVID-19. We spoke with Kathryn Kosuda, a co-founder and CSO of the company.

What’s the history of your company?

The founding team came together around interest in a novel biomaterial pioneered at Tufts, and a vision to improve the accessibility and efficacy of vaccines and therapies globally.

With venture capital funding and support from the NSF, NIH, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we have built a platform combining new immunological mechanisms and simplified administration to achieve this goal. With a team of about 18 people, we have established preclinical proof of concept, advanced manufacturing scale-up, and are preparing for clinical translation.

What does your company do?

Vaxess is developing MIMIX™ smart-release vaccines and therapies engineered to release at the optimal rate in the skin, a target rich in key immune cells. Slowly delivering antigen to mimic the kinetics of natural infection drives more potent humoral and cellular responses, enabling improved vaccine efficacy with a single dose. This is achieved in a silk microneedle patch that is shelf-stable and can be self-applied, requiring only five minutes of wear-time.

How did your time at LabCentral help you grow as a young company?

As a young company, LabCentral significantly lowered the barrier to getting off the ground by allowing us to focus on advancing the science and growing our team without the weight of establishing operational infrastructure from the start. LabCentral also enabled us to establish roots in the Boston biotech community. The connections we forged during our time there with other LabCentral companies, the LabCentral team, and the broader community of partners that engage with LabCentral have continued to help us grow, even after moving on from the LabCentral space.

How have your pivoted to address COVID-19 (and is this an entirely new direction for the company and its tech or a new application for it)?

Vaxess has expanded our work on the MIMIX™ platform to develop a COVID-19 vaccine that could enable global distribution and delivery to patients at home during a pandemic. Because we have an advanced program on a broadly protective influenza vaccine, we had already considered pandemic use cases so the transition to COVID-19 was a natural one. The ability to easily ship and administer a vaccine at home, minimizing potential transmission in hospital or clinic settings, and improving compliance with a single dose is especially compelling in a pandemic scenario. Furthermore, we’ve shown compatibility of our platform with a range of antigen types, including proteins, inactivated viruses, and mRNA, so we’re optimistic that we can broadly enable a more effective COVID-19 vaccine.

What are the next scientific or business milestones for you in addressing COVID-19?

Scientifically, we’re focused on demonstrating that the MIMIX approach generates stronger immunity against COVID-19 with a single dose and aggressively pushing forward clinical translation. In parallel, we’re establishing partnerships with both academic and commercial groups working to address COVID-19 to maximize the impact of our collective efforts.

How does your team feel to be mobilizing to fight a worldwide pandemic?

Being able to apply our skills and technology directly to the COVID-19 pandemic is extremely motivating for our team. This is a growth opportunity for all of us, a chance to take all the foundational knowledge and expertise that we’ve built in developing the platform and quickly develop a compelling product to help in this fight. It has certainly been challenging to have our work and home routines upended, but we feel very fortunate to be part of the global effort that is needed to achieve solutions to this pandemic, and better prepare our world for future pandemics. 

What can we expect from Vaxess for the rest of this year and into 2021?

We have a lot to look forward to over this next year - 2021 will mark a major milestone for the company as we enter our First-in-Human trial with the MIMIX platform. We’ll be growing the team to support this transition to a clinical stage company and look forward to sharing exciting updates along the way.