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stands now at 19 people, he says.
The idea at Immune Design is to build on two main technologies from Caltech and IDRI. One is a delivery system, known as a lentivirus vector, from Baltimore’s lab at Caltech. That new tool makes it possible to precisely stimulate dendritic cells, which are known for sending sentinel warning signals about pathogens to other cells of the immune system. The other component from Reed’s lab at IDRI is a synthetic compound called an adjuvant which is used to boost the effectiveness of existing vaccines. Combining the adjuvants with the delivery system offers an opportunity to trigger highly potent, more specific immune responses in the body than vaccines from the past, Rick Klausner said in an August interview.
Carter wasn’t ready when we talked Friday to provide an update on what kind of evidence the company has assembled to support this concept, but he did say to stay tuned. He says he sees a lot of potential, noting that Seattle-based Corixa, the company Reed co-founded in 1994, was acquired by GlaxoSmithKline in 2005 for more than $300 million largely because of a previous-generation adjuvant called MPL.
The timing may also be ripe. Public health officials lately have shown some renewed interest in adjuvants, because they can make vaccines more potent in the case of a flu pandemic, like the current outbreak of H1N1. That’s important because a successful adjuvant would allow people to get inoculated with smaller doses, meaning that health officials could immunize far more people without having to spend huge amounts of time and money building new vaccine factories.
This has all captured Carter’s interest to the point where he’s busy again. I asked him if he ever really got around to gardening, and getting back in shape, like he intended last November. The answer is yes. “I just put my daffodil bulbs in for next spring, and I’m happy to say I’ve lost 15 pounds,” he says. He’s done a little rowing, and lifts weights four or five times a week. “I don’t have a six-pack, but I think I have a two-pack,” he joked.
On a more serious note, he said one of the things that made him hesitate about Immune Design was whether it would interfere too much with his new schedule, one that had room for exercise. But he says he’s figuring out a way to balance it all in a way that’s stimulating for mind and body.
“This looks to me like one of the most interesting things in town,” Carter says.
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