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Headlines Published on 03 January 2007

Title EU-supported project eyes Alzheimer’s vaccine

An EU-funded project investigating a novel approach to developing a vaccine for Alzheimer’s disease was recently given the go-ahead and has successfully got underway. The project, funded under the sixth Framework Programme, will build upon an innovative approach to preventing Alzheimer’s developed by the project coordinator, Austrian firm Affiris GmbH. The recently approved project, known as MimoVax, will investigate previously overlooked targets for the vaccine at the heart of the condition affecting around 3.5 million Europeans.

Alzheimer's disease was first described by German neurologist Alois Alzheimer in 1906. © Matt+
Alzheimer’s disease was first described by German neurologist Alois Alzheimer in 1906.
MimoVax will centre on the use of natural immune reactions to combat the causative agents of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer patients’ brains contain plaques that are made up of a protein sub-structures, or peptides, called amyloid beta. The new research project will devise a vaccine which triggers an immune response that targets amyloid beta. New diagnostic methods are also being developed to accurately analyse the vaccine’s efficacy.

“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,” says project manager Dr Frank Mattner of Affiris GmbH.

In addition to the better-known beta-amyloids, MimoVax will be the first project to attempt to signal out a rarer, altered form of peptide with a different amino acid line-up.

MimoVax’s approach is an extension of an innovative strategy developed by Affiris GmbH to avoid autoimmune rejection of the vaccine’s active properties. By carefully selecting the correct peptides for the vaccine, Affiris GmbH’s mimotope technology enables a precise immune response to focus only on the problem proteins, leaving healthy portions untouched.

Throughout the project, the consortium will develop pre-clinical and the first clinical analyses of the vaccine. Project partners will further discuss a concrete agenda and research strategy at a working conference in Vienna next year.

In total, the MimoVax project brings together twenty scientists from four high tech industrial companies, two university institutes and one clinic hailing from three countries: Austria, Germany and Spain. The research is funded as a specific targeted research project (STREP) to the tune of €2.4 million.

More information:

  • Alzheimer Europe
  • Life sciences, genomics & biotechnology for health

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