Rhode Island Patent of the Month – October 2022

EpiVax, Inc., a biotechnology company in Rhode Island, has recently discovered a regulatory T-cell epitope for use in vaccine development. The company has dedicated themselves to developing and applying tools to re-engineer therapeutic proteins. 

T-cells are a part of the immune system that focuses on specific foreign particles. Rather than generically attack any antigens, T-cells circulate until they encounter their specific antigen. As such, T-cells play a critical part in immunity to foreign substances. T-cell epitopes are peptides that come from antigens recognized by the T-cell receptor. Tregitopes are a type of T-cell epitope known to activate natural regulatory T cells. These Tregitopes were discovered by EpiVax, who then went on to explore the possibility of applying Tregitopes to auto-immune, auto-inflammatory, and allergic conditions. This research showed that the selective activation of natural regulatory T-cells, controlled by Tregitopes, allows for the dampening of unwanted immune responses.

By exploiting Tregitope specific regulatory T-cells, EpiVax has been able to (a) suppress unwanted immune responses and (b) induce adaptive regulatory T-cells to co-delivered proteins. This type of discovery can then inform future designs of therapeutic regimens and antigen-specific therapies. Technology like this has implications in transplantation, protein therapeutics, allergy treatment, chronic infection, autoimmunity, and even vaccine design.

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