Celiac.com 02/20/2019 - Pharmaceutical company ImmusanT is developing a celiac disease vaccine called Nexvax 2. Many vaccines provide long-term or permanent protection against disease after just one, or several doses. Because celiac disease is not caused by a virus, like polio, but is a response to the presence of an antigen (similar to an allergen that triggers an allergy), the approach to creating a vaccine like Nexvax 2 is different and, in some ways, easier, than creating a traditional vaccine, like the HPV vaccine. Nexvax 2 is a vaccine in much the same way that allergy shots are, but not in the way the polio vaccine is.
Celiac Vaccine is Similar to Allergy Shots
Unlike traditional vaccines, such as the polio vaccine, or the measles vaccine, Nexvax 2 does not inject a small dose of dead or weakened virus, or any virus fragment, into the patient to achieve disease immunity.
Allergy shots work by desensitizing the body’s reaction by strengthening the immune system, thereby reducing or eliminating reactions to certain allergens. Nexvax 2 would work in a similar manner to allergy shots. It would build tolerance levels until there was little or no immune reaction to gluten exposure.
Anyone who’s ever had allergy shots knows that their effectiveness can range from person to person. Some people get minimal relief, though most see good to excellent results. Many experience tremendous relief, and see their symptoms disappear.
Nexvax 2 Faces Easier Path to Approval
Because Nexvax 2 works less like a traditional vaccine, and more like allergy therapy, the process for testing and approval is potentially easier and shorter; several years, rather than a decade or more.
The hope is that, once treated with Nexvax 2, “the immune system, now seeing these fragments of gluten in a different way, might learn to tolerate gluten," said Benjamin Lebwohl, director of clinical research at the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University.
Certainly, the ability to reduce or neutralize the body’s reaction to gluten in people with celiac disease would be a major breakthrough in the treatment of celiac disease. Benefits for celiac patients could include a reduction in severity of gluten contamination symptoms, and potentially an elimination of symptoms entirely. Nexvax 2 treatment, if successful, could allow some people with celiac disease to safely consume wheat. That is potentially huge news.
Phase two clinical trials of the Nexvax 2 are slated for completion by the end of 2019.
Read more: Promising Celiac Vaccine Nexvax 2 Begins Phase Two Trials