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Campus Vienna Biocenter - Progress on Alzheimer’s Vaccine


An innovative vaccination can significantly reduce deposits of the substances in the brain responsible for causing Alzheimer’s disease. This result was disclosed today by Affiris GmbH, a company located at the Campus Vienna Biocenter, Austria. The rapid progress during the pre-clinical development phase has already enabled the Vienna-based company, although having operated only since April 2004, to plan clinical trials for 2006, and thus proves the international competitiveness of the Campus Vienna Biocenter.

Beta-amyloids are pathological fragments of a normal brain protein. They are responsible for the development of Alzheimer’s disease, as they cause the death of brain cells. Amyloid fragments are found in large amounts in the cerebral fluid of Alzheimer patients. Deposits are formed in the brain over the years, thus creating the plaque structures typical of Alzheimer’s disease. It has not yet been completely clarified whether plaque formation or the soluble beta-amyloids are the causative agents for Alzheimer’s disease.

Tailor-made Vaccine

The Vienna-based company Affiris is now reporting that it has succeeded in significantly reducing Alzheimer plaques by at least two-thirds in pre-clinical models by means of an innovative vaccine. CEO Dr. Walter Schmidt explains the important feature of the vaccination strategy: "Alzheimer’s is caused by a fragment of one of the ubiquitous proteins of cerebral cells. If one wants to combat Alzheimer immunologically it is essential to generate antibodies which are targeted against the beta-amyloids, but which leave the normal constituent of the cerebral cells unharmed, since the latter would induce an autoimmune disease. In keeping with this, Affiris´ vaccine approach has been shown to be highly specific for beta amyloids and not to react with the normal constituent of cerebral cells."

Thus, the Affiris approach not only avoids an autoimmune disease, but also offers the advantage of targeting simultaneously both the plaques and the soluble beta-amyloid fraction. Therefore, whether the soluble or plaque forms - or both - are responsible for causing the disease is not ultimately crucial for the vaccine’s success. The additional proof that the vaccine induces antibodies, which are active against plaques in human tissue samples, and the first data collected on the toxicology profile have further contributed to built a secure basis for Affiris to schedule the first trials on patients for 2006.

Biotech with Economics

Beside its scientific success Affiris also boasts important economic advantages: low costs and short manufacturing times for its vaccine. In the words of Dr. Schmidt: "Our substances are produced at low costs and a building-block system is used to form the vaccine. The effective component is synthetically manufactured and combined with a carrier substance isolated from natural resources. Both together form the actual vaccine and a standard adjuvant is added to strengthen the immune response."

The fact that the management has taken these important economic aspects into consideration from the very beginning is also due to the comprehensive biotech experiences at the Campus Vienna Biocenter. After all, numerous biotech companies and research institutes are situated at the Campus Vienna Biocenter, in addition to the FH Campus Wien (biotechnology), the Life Science Departments of the University of Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna, all sharing both resources and experiences and thus contributing to the international success of this location.

About AFFiRiS (September 2005):

AFFiRiS develops peptide-based vaccines for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and atherosclerosis. The company has established platform technologies and registered seven patents. 12 employees work in a 6,500 sqf rented laboratory facility on the Campus Vienna Biocenter.

About the Campus Vienna Biocenter (September 2005):

The Campus Vienna Biocenter is one of the largest R&D clusters in Austria with approx. 1,000 scientists from 40 nations at 16 organisations. Academic departments (University of Vienna, Medical University of Vienna, subsumed in the Max F. Perutz Laboratories), private research institutes (IMP - Institute of Molecular Pathology) and institutes of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (IMBA - Institute of Molecular Biotechnology, GMI - Gregor Mendel Institute) are also located here along with commercial R&D companies, service companies and training course centres.

Till C. Jelitto | alfa
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