A recently approved project of the sixth EU Framework Programme – MimoVax – is focussing on a new target for an Alzheimer’s vaccine. The project, coordinated by the Austrian company Affiris GmbH, centres on the use of immune reactions to combat previously overlooked forms of the beta-amyloid that cause Alzheimer’s disease. It is being run by seven partner organisations from three countries and has received an exceptionally positive response from Brussels – as well as Euro 2.4 million in financial support.

The signing of the contract yesterday signalled the start of the active
phase of the EU MimoVax project. The project is part of the sixth EU
Framework Programme and is seeking to develop an Alzheimer’s vaccine that targets specific types of beta-amyloid, the causative agent of Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Frank Mattner, Project Manager and CSO of Affiris GmbH, explains, “Alzheimer’s is caused by deposits of beta-amyloid peptides. These deposits – also known as plaques – are formed when parts of a human protein detach from the cell membrane of nerve cells and clump together. A high proportion of these peptides, the so called beta-amyloids, consist of 40 or 42 amino acids. The first vaccine developed by Affiris targets precisely these types of peptides and helps to break down the plaques.”

MimoVax is now pursuing an additional strategy. The project aims to investigate whether an immune reaction can also be induced against other, rarer, forms of beta-amyloid. Indeed, not all peptides in the plaques consist of 40 or 42 amino acids. Mechanical stress or enzymes can cause some amino acids to break down or can alter their chemical composition. Although these modified peptides are also a suitable point of attack for novel treatment strategies, no relevant development programme has been started to date. MimoVax is now changing this.

It was a technology from Affiris GmbH that proved decisive in securing
approval for the project. This technology enables scientists to get round a key problem posed by vaccines against degenerated human proteins such as beta-amyloid – the development of autoimmune reaction. By carefully selecting the correct peptides for the vaccine, Affiris GmbH’s mimotope technology enables a precise immune reaction to be implemented against only the degenerated form of the protein, and for this to be done without attacking the natural form. This principle has already been proven in the first vaccine developed by Affiris.

Frank Mattner continues, “The exceptional approval rating the Framework Programme’s panel of independent experts gave the MimoVax project – 29 out of a possible 30 points – is, of course, also a great vote of confidence in Affiris’ mimotope technology. And, actually, MIG-Fonds in Germany have already invested in this Affiris technology, thereby enabling us to reach the current stage of development for our first Alzheimer’s vaccine. This will be used on the first patients in the coming months. Overall, this broad financial support demonstrates wide-ranging confidence in the use of mimotope technology as an efficient strategy for vaccinating against human rogue proteins.”

During the MimoVax project, both pre-clinical and the first clinical phases of development for the new vaccine will be carried out over the next three years. Throughout the project, Affiris will be coordinating a group of partners from Austria, Germany and Spain comprising three other industrial companies, two university institutes and a clinic. 20 scientists are working together in this group and will be meeting in Vienna for their first working conference as early as October.

Background: MimoVax – mimotope vaccine – is a specific targeted research project (STREP, Contract Number LSHB-CT-2006-037702) for the development and optimisation of an Alzheimer’s vaccine as part of the sixth EU Framework Programme. The aim of the project is to develop a vaccine that attacks modified forms of the beta-amyloid that causes Alzheimer’s. New diagnostic methods are also being developed to enable the vaccine’s efficacy to be accurately analysed. The MimoVax partners, from Spain, German and Austria, comprise four industrial companies, two university institutes and one clinic. The project will run for three years and is receiving Euro 2.4 million in EU funding. Affiris GmbH in Vienna is responsible for managing the project.

Industry: Affiris GmbH (AT), JSW Research GmbH (AT), piCHEM R&D GmbH (AT), biolution Co & KEG (AT).
Universities: Technische Universität München (DE), Philipps-Universität Marburg (DE)
Hospitals: EuroEspes Biomedical Research Center (ES)

About AFFiRiS GmbH (as at December 2006):
AFFiRiS GmbH develops peptide-based vaccines for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and atherosclerosis. The company has established platform technologies and registered seven patents. The company employs 20 people on 600 sqm of rented laboratory facilities at the Campus Vienna Biocenter (www.affiris.com).

Contact for Affiris GmbH:
Dr. Frank Mattner
Campus Vienna Biocenter 2
1030 Vienna, Austria
T +43 / 1 / 798 1575 15
E [email protected]

Copy Editing & Distribution:
PR&D – Public Relations for Research & Development
Campus Vienna Biocenter 2
1030 Vienna, Austria
T +43 / 1 / 505 70 44
E [email protected]

Vienna, 11th December 2006

Michaela Fritsch

PR&D – Public Relations for Research & Development

T +43 1 505 70 44
F +43 1 505 50 83
E [email protected]

Campus Vienna Biocenter 2
A 1030 Vienna, Austria


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