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What if a simple vaccine and a few booster shots could allow you to eat all of the gluten-filled treats that your heart desires, without any of the painful side effects?

It’s not as far off as it sounds.

Boston-based biotechnology company ImmusanT is trying to do just that – and has begun early-stage clinical trials for a celiac vaccine. Their aim is to replace the gluten-free diet.

Whether you’ve been gluten-free for years, or you just got started on your gluten-free journey, this is probably really difficult to imagine.

So, let’s jump in and take a deeper look at what they’re developing.

ImmusanT’s vaccine is called NexVax2, and let’s be clear: there is a long road ahead for it. This first round of trials is designed to determine whether or not the vaccine is safe and to find a range of potential doses that can be used in further studies.

CEO Leslie Williams stated that what sets her company apart from their competitors (which we will discuss in other upcoming blog posts) is that, “If ImmusanT’s plan succeeds, celiac patients might one day be able to eat all of the gluten they want.” Music to my ears! She also added, “We are the only treatment in development that is disease-modifying. Our focus is disease modification so patients can resume an unrestricted diet.”

How NexVax2 Works

ImmusanT’s vaccine will inject patients with engineered versions of the three gluten fragments that trigger an immune response in individuals with celiac, and are supposed to train the immune system to see gluten as food – instead of attacking it. The vaccine and subsequent boosters will potentially reprogram the immune system.

NexVax2 trials have begun in an “induction phase,” consisting of one to two shots per week for approximately 8 weeks, after which, in theory, patients would be able to tolerate gluten. Periodic booster shots would also be necessary, but ImmusanT has not yet determined how often. The trials include patients diagnosed with celiac disease who carry the main celiac disease gene HLA-DQ2, which is present in 90% of people with celiac. In the future, ImmusanT plans to mimic this approach to expand their development into therapies for other autoimmune conditions such as Type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

More information concerning ImmusanT’s trials which are being held in the US, Australia, New Zealand and a special study in Boston (involving those who also have Type 1 diabetes) can be found here.

There are a few other companies making progress in the development of treatments for celiac disease, and we will feature them individually in future posts!

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