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Exploring synergy in immunology
June 2016
by Ilene Schneider  |  Email the author
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BERKELEY, Calif.—The University of California, Berkeley, in collaboration with Aduro Biotech Inc. have launched the Immunotherapeutics and Vaccine Research Initiative (IVRI). In partnership with Aduro, IVRI—UC Berkeley’s first-ever immunotherapy-focused initiative—will combine the university’s research capabilities with the company’s expertise in immunotherapy discovery and development.
 
The initiative is founded on the principle that research uncovering how the immune system controls infectious disease yields new approaches for treating cancer and, at the same time, that studies of cancer immunology yield approaches for vaccines and therapies targeting infectious disease.
 
According to IVRI director Dr. David Raulet, professor and co-chair of the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology at UC Berkeley, “We’re increasingly finding that immune stimulants associated with disease-causing microbes work as cancer therapies, and conversely, that immunotherapies for cancer may have applications for fighting infectious diseases.”
 
Aduro Biotech, a leading immunotherapy company focused on the discovery, development and commercialization of therapies that transform the treatment of challenging diseases, is IVRI’s founding partner. Aduro will provide $7.5 million over three years, with an option to increase and extend funding for an additional three-year period.
 
Aimed at identifying and advancing new treatment options and preventive modalities for cancer, infectious disease and autoimmune disease, IVRI is designed to explore the unique synergy between cancer and infectious disease research and to accelerate breakthrough discoveries in both areas. IVRI researchers are working with collaborators and sponsors with the shared goal of discovering and advancing immunotherapeutics and vaccine strategies.
 
Aduro has been collaborating with several UC Berkeley professors for more than 10 years, and the company has deep ties to the university. According to Dr. Thomas W. Dubensky Jr., chief scientific officer at Aduro Biotech, “IVRI is a groundbreaking research initiative to develop mechanistic understanding and application of immunology, pathogenesis and vaccinology with the potential to profoundly impact the treatment of human disease. IVRI hopes to develop new methods for targeting and effectively controlling many different cancers, autoimmune and infectious diseases, including the identification of novel targets, which will pave the way for the development of innovative new treatment options.”
 
Some features of the Aduro Listeria-based LADD technology already incorporate some technology invented at UC Berkeley, including attenuated Listeria monocytogenes mutants and methods to engineer these bacteria to express encoded antigens. Researchers at UC Berkeley will have the opportunity to access Aduro’s novel technologies including its LADD, STING and B-select monoclonal antibody programs, all of which are designed to harness the body’s immune system. IVRI’s research aims to increase the basic scientific understanding of how to better engage the immune system in treating cancer, infectious disease and autoimmune disease, and to generate the rationale for developing new drugs specific for novel targets.
 
“By improving our understanding of the immune system to serve as an important weapon in treating cancer and infectious disease, it may be possible to develop new potential treatments for some of the most devastating diseases,” Dubensky said.
 
In the collaboration, Aduro will provide funding and access to its technology platforms; UC Berkeley researchers will conduct the research. Aduro will have the right of first refusal to research and products developed by the initiative.
 
“Through this unique collaboration, there is tremendous opportunity to improve our understanding of the immune system’s potential to serve as an important weapon in treating cancer and infectious disease,” concluded Stephen T. Isaacs, chairman, president and CEO of Aduro Biotech. “By combining UC Berkeley’s leading research and academic resources with innovative technology platforms, such as those developed by Aduro, we are confident that this initiative will lead to an improved understanding of, and potential treatments for, some of the most devastating diseases.”
 
Code: E061605

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