The time of year that I dread has rolled around again…
With the brutal winter now finally in the rearview mirror, the trees, flowers and grass are showing signs of life again. And with it, the pollen count is creeping higher, too.
It’s a miserable time for allergy sufferers, who spend springtime sneezing, rubbing itchy eyes and blowing noses.
Allergies consistently rank highly among the most costly disease groups in industrialized nations, with 65 million sufferers in the United States and over 80 million in Europe.
But help is on the way, courtesy of scientists in Finland…
Next-Generation Allergy Treatment
At the VTT Technical Research Centre, they’re developing allergy vaccines that could be a major breakthrough in allergy treatment.
Using patented gene technology, they’ve restructured the makeup of 20 allergens – the proteins that trigger various allergies.
In doing so, it helps the body build up a new resistance to allergies – and relief from the symptoms.
The vaccines come on the back of groundbreaking research in the field from VTT, the University of Eastern Finland and the HUCH Skin and Allergy Hospital.
In short, it shows that allergens can be genetically modified to trigger the production of immunoglobulin G (IgG) – a hypoallergenic antibody that binds to an allergen and blocks it.
To develop these next-generation vaccines and push them through clinical trials, VTT has set up a commercial wing called Desentum, which plans to start Phase I trials this year.
It’s led by Pekka Mattila, who explains that “we can prevent the formation of the allergen complexes and then introduce an IgG response within the cell. And throughout the IgG response, you create your own immune system to work against the allergens.”
International Innovation Honors
To underline the breakthrough nature of its allergy vaccine work, the VTT team won the international innovation prize from the European Association of Research and Technology Organizations (EARTO) in December 2013.
It was the second straight year that a VTT team won the award, following the triumph in 2012 for its scientists working on a bio-oil production process. As VTT’s vice president of strategic research, Johanna Buchert, says, “The innovation behind the allergy vaccine is a good example of just how significant the impact of science and technology on society can be. Considering that EARTO has around 300 member organizations, winning the prize in two consecutive years speaks volumes for the high level and impact of our research and development work.”
A Lucrative New World
The VTT team is currently creating hypoallergenic vaccines that combat grass, birch and ragweed pollen, plus pet and food allergens.
It hopes to run tests on oral vaccination tablets this year, but it will be five years before the vaccines are expected to be commercially available.
It’s lucrative work, too. The projected market value for the new allergy vaccines is around $700 million worldwide.
For allergy sufferers, relief can’t come soon enough.
Ahead of the tape,