Fondation Merieux

A family foundation dedicated to fighting infectious diseases

Reprogramming the immune system through novel therapeutic vaccines

The meeting, Therapeutic vaccines: reprogramming immunity in infectious diseases, allergy and cancer, brought together 50 participants from seven countries at Fondation Mérieux’s Les Pensières conference centre from 25–27 March.

Vaccine producers, including Sanofi, GSK, Crucell, Transgène, and Genzyme, met with research institutions such as Inserm, the Emory Vaccine Centre, the National Cancer Institute, and University College London to:

  • discuss the underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms that allow the immune system to respond to the diverse challenges posed by infectious disease, allergy and cancer while still remaining agile and adaptable

  • determine what factors play a key role in the failure of the immune system to control these health issues under specific circumstances.

The meeting featured presentations on the biology and virulence mechanisms of a panel of pathogens associated with chronic infection (tuberculosis, chlamydia, Cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex virus, etc.), or at the interface between cancer and infection (human papillomavirus, Epstein-Barr virus, etc.). The group looked at how host factors specific to the individual patient can drive different responses to the same infection (e.g. herpes simplex virus).

The latest developments in therapeutic vaccines against cancer were discussed to see how the immune system can be re-programmed to target different antigens or stimulate a broader set of mechanisms in order to work more effectively against the proliferation of cancer cells. The participants also examined the opposite end of the spectrum, allergy, where an overly active immune response causes unintended damage to the host. They discussed how therapeutic vaccines can be used to re-educate or thwart the immune response to prevent or limit allergic reaction.

By looking at these diverse situations as part of a continuum, the meeting’s goal was to build a transversal understanding of the common drivers and underpinning mechanisms that can serve as a basis for the development of novel therapeutic vaccines against infectious diseases, allergy and cancer.

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