Genocea's vaccine programs are built around a transformational platform for the rapid discovery of T cell antigens. T cell antigens, specifically antigens that stimulate CD4+ and CD8+ T cells,are critical to generating disease‐specific cellular immune responses and long-term T cell memory.
Genocea's approach addresses several key challenges to T cell antigen discovery, including identification of promising antigens from among the thousands of possible candidates for each pathogen and selection of antigens with potential to provide protection across diverse populations.
In less than three years, Genocea has taken four programs in three diseases from project initiation to animal proof-of-concept, a dramatically accelerated pace compared with up to 10-12 years with traditional discovery approaches. The technology is based on pioneering research by Darren Higgins, Ph.D., while at The University of California at Berkeley and Harvard Medical School.
At the core of ATLAS™ is a high throughput screening process that mimics the natural mammalian immune response to protein antigens, including antigen processing and presentation by antigen presenting cells (APCs); CD4+ and CD8+ T cell recognition of APC-displayed peptides; and immune activation. Critically, the company screens all of a pathogen's proteins against T cells obtained from human donors with diverse HLA types who have either generated a potentially protective or ineffective immune response after exposure to a target pathogen. As part of its discovery approach the company creates a library of each pathogen's complete proteome.
As a result, ATLAS™ winnows what can be as many as several thousand proteins in a pathogen proteome down to a set of a small number of protein antigens that correlate with natural immunity. A subset of proteins from that group is selected for in vivo testing, based on recognition across multiple HLA supertypes and other criteria, with the goal of identifying two to five antigens for formulation and development into a vaccine candidate that will be protective across diverse ethnic populations.