Trevor Clancy Ph.D.
CSO & Co-Founder, NEC OncoImmunity
Richard Stratford Ph.D.
CEO & Co-Founder, NEC OncoImmunity
The fight against infectious diseases takes a significant leap forward with a cutting-edge AI platform that can design universal vaccines.
New developments within artificial intelligence are unlocking the potential for creating broadly protective universal vaccines against infectious diseases. NEC OncoImmunity’s (NOI) technology can identify cross-reactive immune targets covering numerous strains of a disease, cut development timelines, and make vaccines cheaper for more equitable global distribution.
What is a universal vaccine?
While current vaccines confer immunity to one or several strains of a disease, universal vaccines are designed to teach the immune system to defend against all versions of a pathogen. Significantly, that may even cover versions that do not yet exist.
Vaccines targeting all variants
Biotech company NOI’s AI platform, with proprietary machine-learning-based software, was initially designed for personalized cancer immunotherapy and is now also, repurposed to identify optimal antigen/epitope targets for infectious disease vaccine development. Co-founded as OncoImmunity by CEO Dr. Richard Stratford and CSO Dr. Trevor Clancy in 2014, the company has been a part of NEC group since 2019 and, more recently, NEC Bio B.V.
Universal vaccines are designed to teach the immune system to defend against all versions of a pathogen.
The company is already developing a portfolio of vaccine designs, which can be further developed into commercial vaccines, and is seeking meaningful partnerships with established players in the infectious diseases field. Dr. Clancy explains that the ability to design universal vaccines has been made possible by the advent of next-generation sequencing (NGS) data, which can rapidly sequence pathogens and genomes, and the evolution of AI algorithms.
Faster infectious disease vaccine production
Dr. Stratford says the process of target discovery, previously conducted in wet labs, is now done in silico, with the timelines reduced from years to weeks. Following the pandemic, a global target was set to develop vaccines within a 100-day timeframe to protect against current and emerging threats. “We can already develop personalized cancer vaccines, within a short timeframe; the trick now is to translate that into the infectious disease field,” he adds.
Enabled by AI and partnerships
The AI platform could tackle diseases that have proven refractory to developing vaccines, explains Dr. Stratford. “It also speeds up the process and makes it cheaper to develop vaccines,” he adds. Currently, Dr. Stratford is looking to build partnerships to progress NOI’s portfolio into clinical development.