New firm to create vaccines to prevent cytomegalovirus infections

DiaVax Biosciences will create two vaccines to help guard against cytomegalovirus (CMV) infections in people with weak immune systems. | Courtesy of
DiaVax Biosciences, a new company created by City of Hope and Fortress Biotech, will create two vaccines to protect those with weak immune systems against cytomegalovirus (CMV) infections.

CMV is a life-threatening illness that commonly afflicts people who have underdeveloped or weakened immune systems, such as developing fetuses and cancer patients.

Over half of Americans have CMV by the time they are 40 years old, and many times, these people show no symptoms. It is only when CMV afflicts people with weakened immune systems that it becomes fatal.

Researchers will use targeted immune system cells, called CMV-specific T cells, to boost the immune system against CMV. So far, the treatments have been tested on recipients of organ and stem-cell transplants.

“We believe that these vaccines represent a turning point in the treatment of CMV infection, and as such, have the potential to become a model for the treatment of other opportunistic infections as well,” Dr. Don Diamond, chairman of the Department of Experimental Therapeutics at City of Hope and future chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of DiaVax, said. “The agreement with Fortress not only allows us to make these vaccines available to more people who need them, but it also highlights the viability of this new type of vaccine therapy.”

“We are pleased to enter into this collaboration with City of Hope and Dr. Don Diamond,” Lindsay Rosenwald, chairman and CEO of Fortress Biotech, said. “Current antiviral therapies used in this context are often toxic and merely suppress CMV during treatment. The vaccines we have licensed represent a promising new T-cell-based immunotherapeutic approach for controlling CMV in patients with weakened immune systems. An effective vaccine could educate the body's immune system to fight CMV."

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City of Hope 1500 E Duarte Rd Duarte, CA - 91010

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