Celiac.com 12/18/2008 - Celiac disease is a life-long autoimmune disease. When people with celiac disease consume the gluten proteins found in wheat, rye and barley they damage the lining of the gut, which prevents normal digestion and absorption of food.
There is currently no cure for the celiac disease. The only treatment is life-long adherence to a strict gluten-free diet. If a gluten-free diet is not followed, the disease can ultimately lead to ill health and life-threatening conditions including malnutrition, osteoporosis, bowel cancer, and may cause infertility problems.
Dr. Bob Anderson of the Autoimmunity and Transplantation Division of Australia’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute has led a research team that has isolated the toxic elements of gluten, paving the way for a possible vaccine that will suppress or prevent gluten toxicity. The research indicates that the toxic, autoimmune response in celiac patients exposed to wheat is triggered by just few dominant peptides in the gluten protein. This small number of offending peptides makes it exponentially easier for researchers to develop a vaccine.
Dr. Anderson is a joint founder and CEO of Nexpep, an Australian company that is actively working to develop a vaccine to treat celiac disease. Dr. Anderson’s team has created a peptide-based therapeutic vaccine to treat the main problem T-cell epitopes of gluten. The vaccine has the potential to treat at about 80% of people with celiac disease and having the appropriate genetic background. Similar to traditional desensitization therapy for allergies, the peptide-based vaccines are given in multiple small doses over a course of injections in an effort to create immune tolerance not only to the selected gluten fragments, but also lower the toxicity of related toxic gluten molecules.
Nexpep is currently raising capital for a clinical trial program for a peptide-based therapeutic vaccine and intends to commence a Phase 1 clinical trial in the first half of 2009.