GLOBEIMMUN INC., DENVER
FOUNDED: 1995 AS CERES PHARMACEUTICALS, INC. CHANGED NAME TO GLOBEIMMUNE IN 2001
INITIAL LIGHTBULB: In 1994, Alex Franzusoff, of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, happened across what could go down in history as a paradigm-shifting breakthrough. In collaboration with fellow UCHSC faculty members (and GlobeImmune co-founders) Richard Duke and Donald Bellgrau, Franzusoff discovered that brewer's yeast could potentially produce inexpensive vaccines to fight everything from HIV to cancer.
"Like many things in science, it wasn't because we sat down with the idea that we were going to make a vaccine," said Duke. "It started really because Alex was using yeast as a tool to study HIV proteins."
The trio concluded that yeast-produced proteins provoke strong responses from the immune system, a 180-degree departure from the traditional concept of a vaccine. The scientists patented the biotechnology in conjunction with the university in 1998.
Their discoveries evolved into GlobeImmune's flagship product. "It's an extremely novel platform technology that allows us to create a vaccine for any particular use," said Duke, GlobeImmune's chairman and chief scientific officer. "We decided we really wanted to take these inventions and move them from the lab to the clinic."
HIV, the AIDS virus, will be the first tackled by the new GlobeImmune technology.
CLINICAL TIMELINE: GlobeImmune is gunning to begin Phase One clinical trials by the end of the year, which involve about 80 volunteer subjects for nine to 12 months. If the vaccine shows promise, it will then move into Phase Two (500 subjects for about a year), and then Phase Three (1,000 to 5,000 volunteers for three or more years). If the vaccine clears Phase Three, Globeimmune would not only earn a spot in Colorado's biotech pantheon, but its founders would likely receive calls from the Nobel Foundation.
Beyond HIV, early research indicates Globeimmune's platform could be used to prevent (and possibly treat) such maladies as hepatitis B, tuberculosis, anthrax, and even allergies. Globeimmune plans to license its platform to other companies that want to test its viability as a platform against diseases other than HIV.
THE MARKET: The annual worldwide market for vaccines is currently $7 billion. However, if GlobeImmune's technology proves its efficacy in AIDS or cancer therapy, the company's market becomes exponentially larger.
"The problem with HIV...