Author: Sabine Mølleskov Pedersen, Head of Communications, Evaxion Biotech
14 Jul 2016
Data is a ubiquitous part of our lives, and it is continually increasing in complexity and size; in fact, over the past few years our collective data accumulation has dwarfed that of our entire preceding history. Even genomic data is being amassed at an accelerated pace. The first full human genome took 13 years to complete and cost around $3bn: today it takes as little as 24 hours and costs around $1,000, allowing billions of sequences to be processed every day, generating a tremendous amount of genomic data. In fact, genomic sequencing produces so much information that the technology has simply outrun our capacity to use the resulting data. Herein lies the challenge of big data: how can anyone make sense of it all?
Danish immuno-informatics company Evaxion Biotech has found a remarkable way of solving this problem. By building datasets based on genomic sequence information, Evaxion is capable of rapidly capturing and translating massive amounts of big data into effective vaccines. The secret formula is a unique mix of artificial intelligence, supercomputers and know-how. Evaxion has put these capabilities to good use as a powerful weapon in the fight against multi-drug-resistant bacteria, among other emerging biological threats.
The use of computational methods to interpret immunological information, known as immuno-informatics, is a fast-growing pillar of drug development. This is especially the case in vaccine development, where governments are scrabbling for long-term solutions to multi-drug-resistant bacteria as an alternative to antibiotic dependency. Evaxion’s ability to identify and characterise effective vaccine candidates in just a few months is in high demand, due to the high incidence rate of infectious diseases caused by multi-drug-resistant bacteria worldwide.
Equipped with such a powerful “superweapon against superbugs”, co-founder and CEO of Evaxion Biotech, Niels Møller, feels a great responsibility to use this technology for the benefit of patients worldwide. “I respect the weight of the opportunity we have at hand, and understand the implications of our immuno-informatics technology in solving some of the biggest threats to human health”, he said.
This responsibility is the driving force behind the Evaxion vision: a world where all infectious diseases are preventable through vaccines. The team at Evaxion is working hard to expand the capacity of the technology to achieve just that, by being able to target parasites like malaria, viruses like influenza, and emerging pandemic threats. If successful, this work could save millions of lives. But the vision extends even further too.
As the volume of big data in oncology is growing at a rate far outpacing the progress made to rein in all the information, there is a growing consensus that finding ways to better collect, harness and analyse big data is vital to speeding the pace of progress towards cancer cures.
Evaxion’s use of computational tools may play a critical role in the detailed analysis of complex genomic information that is not achievable using traditional approaches alone. Immuno-informatics is unfolding new opportunities in this area, termed immuno-oncology, in which a patient’s own immune system is triggered to fight cancer. With the insights into identification of vaccine candidates and tumour escape mechanisms of the immune system, Evaxion’s new immuno-oncology platform is taking shape through the incorporation of big data technology to identify, select and optimise the most promising candidates (anti-cancer treatments) for therapeutic vaccines across a broad oncology spectrum. The goal is to potentially change the cancer treatment paradigm.
“We have unique know-how and technology available that can help us solve key challenges in immuno-oncology, including identifying cancer vaccine targets, selecting the best of them and, finally, modifying cancer vaccine targets to boost the immune systems of cancer patients to kill cancer cells”, said Møller.
Evaxion is looking to solve some of the key issues within the immuno-oncology field, in the hope of contributing to the future of immuno-oncology therapies, by exploring personalised treatment options. “Our aim is to establish an immuno-oncology platform that, together with collaborators, allows us to deliver a therapeutic vaccine, tailored to each cancer patient, in only six weeks.”
Møller is building a world-class team at Evaxion to meet the promise of solving the urgent challenges faced by infectious diseases and cancer. Alongside co-founder Andreas Mattsson, CSO and inventor of Evaxion’s immuno-informatics platform, Møller is leading the team at Evaxion to long-term success.
“I’m a servant leader at an exciting company with powerful technology that works to solve the biggest challenges to human health. It is a privilege to lead brilliant people and set out goals that transform world-class science into vaccines that could save the lives of millions of people”, said Møller.
As the big data story continues to unfold, Evaxion is ideally positioned to realise its potential.