VICTORIANS will be among the first in the world offered a vaccine hoped to cure coeliac disease.
The world’s first coeliac disease vaccine is expected to enter full trials later this year, giving Australian patients a chance to overcome their immune reaction to the gluten found in products containing wheat, rye and barley.
Developed by Australian scientist Dr Bob Anderson, who relocated to Boston to further his research with biotech company ImmusanT, the Nexvax2 vaccine aims to desensitise patients to three peptides contained in gluten that trigger a damaging reaction in their immune system.
Earlier trials, involving 150 patients from Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and Auckland, were centred on establishing a tolerable dosage rather than overcoming the coeliac disease.
But with results from that research to be released in May, Dr Anderson said the larger phase II study, also being undertaken in the US and Europe, would follow to determine how effectively the vaccine could overcome coeliac disease.
Dr Anderson first identified the peptides triggering coeliac disease and began developing the vaccine while working at Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, before travelling to Boston for six weeks as part of a sister city arrangement through the City of Melbourne, where he made contact with ImmusanT to further the discovery.
Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said it was rewarding the fellowship had been able to turn Dr Anderson’s vision into a vaccine that would change many peoples’ lives for the better.
“This is world-leading medical research and technology that began in Melbourne and I am so proud that our sister city relationship with Boston has allowed this work to develop and progress to clinical trials,” Cr Doyle said.
Up to 1 per cent of the population is affected by coeliac disease, which can only be treated by removing gluten from the diet.
The Nexvax2 vaccine is hoped to desensitise the immune systems rejection of gluten to the extent patients can enjoy a normal diet.
Jane Davies, who has been involved in the WEHI trials and is the executive officer of Coeliac Victoria and Tasmania, said upcoming trials were eagerly anticipated for many patients.
“Just a couple of crumbs makes me very sick … the vaccine would make life normal,” Ms Davies said.