Written by Tim Povtak | Edited By Walter Pacheco

The Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center (VIC) was founded in 2009 to accelerate research into cost-effective therapies to prevent and cure cancer, infectious diseases and immune-related diseases.

VIC’s overarching goal is to reduce costs and shorten the time it takes to develop a drug in a laboratory and bring it to the marketplace.

Since its inception, VIC has developed seven new drugs, four of which are ready for clinical trial testing.

Among these drugs are two immunotherapies, AMD3100 (plerixafor) and VIC-008, used in combination to treat mesothelioma. Preliminary research in mice showed the drug combination can shrink tumors and improve life expectancy.

In 2022, the VIC tested the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines on patients with cancer. They discovered that receipt of chemotherapy in the prior year or current steroids was associated with lower antibody levels. Antibody titers were lower in patients with cancer than in comparable healthy controls, regardless of vaccine type.

About VIC

VIC collaborates with medical, scientific and business partners to move therapies into the marketplace.

VIC uses innovative project management techniques to reduce the time and costs required to develop new immunotherapies. The team at VIC focuses on streamlined project execution, meeting regulatory standards and partnering with experts to create scientific discoveries into effective medicines.

Part of this work involves working with governmental agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and private medical companies to develop and market drugs.

VIC is among the few U.S. research centers focusing on mesothelioma. Others include the Pacific Meso Center in Los Angeles and the Shukla Research Lab at the University of Vermont.

Leadership

VIC is directed by Dr. Mark Poznansky, who also serves as an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and as a physician of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Poznansky earned his doctoral degree from Cambridge University and his medical degree from the University of Edinburg. He completed his residency at St. Mary’s Hospital and his fellowships at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Poznansky’s educational background and experience in translational and immune medicine make him uniquely qualified to direct the Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center.

Translational medicine is a growing field that aims to speed up the translation of medical research into approved medical products. The resources required to bring medicines and other medical products to market make it difficult for researchers and companies to produce affordable products.

VIC utilizes translational medicine and a multidisciplinary approach to create affordable therapies for cancer patients and people with immune-related diseases.

VIC Research on Mesothelioma

VIC has been developing an immunotherapy combination for mesothelioma thanks to a grant from the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP), developed by the U.S. Department of Defense in 1992, to promote biomedical research that benefits the military and the American public.

Approximately 30 percent of mesothelioma lawsuits are filed by veterans. The CDMRP funded VIC’s mesothelioma research because cancer disproportionally affects veterans because the U.S. armed forces use asbestos products throughout every military branch.

VIC’s immunotherapy combination for mesothelioma involves AMD3100 and VIC-008.

  • AMD3100 is an immune system stimulant that mobilizes stem cells into the bloodstream. In 2008, it was approved by the FDA to treat Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma.
  • VIC-008 is an immune system stimulating protein that targets mesothelin, a biomarker that is over-expressed in mesothelioma.

“One [AMD3100] opens the gate to the immune system, breaks the barrier against immunity the tumor deploys. Then the other [VIC-008] activates the troops to go in and kill the tumor cells,” said Poznansky.

The drug combination has only been tested in mice with mesothelioma, but it significantly reduced tumor size and more than doubled survival time. VIC is working on developing human clinical trials for the drug combination in mesothelioma patients.

“We’ve worked on a lot of combinations that just don’t work, but science is about persistence and new ideas, getting back up when things fail,” Poznansky said. “We deal with failure. But this new combination immunotherapy is promising.”

Ongoing Research

In addition to researching immunotherapies for mesothelioma, VIC is involved in various other research projects for ovarian cancer, type I diabetes and vaccination.

  • Adjuvant therapies that improve effectiveness of vaccines
  • Vaccines for infectious diseases such as the flu
  • Immunotherapies for ovarian cancer
  • Therapies for people with type I diabetes
  • Development of personalized vaccines
  • Research to speed wound healing

Funding VIC

VIC receives funding and financial support from public and private sectors, including private philanthropy from families who believe immunotherapy will play a pivotal role in the future of disease control.

Governmental organizations, such as the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Defense, have awarded funding to VIC. Private foundations, such as the Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer and the Trinity Foundation, have also provided financial support.

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