Artificial Immune System Developed To Test Vaccines and Drugs

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The 96 wells of the MIMIC System. Photo courtesy of Sanofi Pasteur

The development and testing of vaccines and medicines is a long and expensive process, but it is a process that is needed to keep people healthy and to prevent diseases. Now, researchers at Sanofi Pasteur, a prominent vaccine manufacturer, have published new research that has the potential to streamline this process through the development of an artificial immune system.

Artificial Immune System

This biomimetic model of the human immune system is called the Modular Immune In vitro Construct,  also known as the MIMIC® system – in various studies, this system has shown that it produces human response profiles, and has also been able to produce human immune responses from drugs and vaccines that cannot be duplicated in experimental animals.

The system consists of 96 individual wells, each of which represents a human immune system, and has been described as a clinical trial that doesn’t put humans at risk for potential adverse side effects. How the MIMIC system works is best explained through this video, provided by Sanofi Pasteur.

Vaccine Testing: Will This Research Speed Up The Process?

Lymphocytes are part of our immune systems: Image courtesy of the National Cancer Institute

Decoded Science had the opportunity to interview  Dr. William Warren, Head of the VaxDesign Campus, Sanofi Pasteur, to discuss this research. I asked Dr. Warren if this system will reduce the time it takes for scientists to test drugs and vaccines, and Dr. Warren responded that the times involved are approximately the same. He noted, however, that “The difference the MIMIC brings is predictability. The time savings comes in that if you are more predictive of clinical outcomes, then lost opportunity costs are minimized.”

Artificial Immune System Testing: Safety and Specificity

Since this is such a new method of testing, I asked Dr. Warren about safety concerns – what if this pseudo-immune system doesn’t work as well in some cases? Will people be put at risk due to a difference in testing methods? Dr. Warren explained that they will use “constant feedback between animal studies and the MIMIC system before clinical trials with humans are conducted.”

Will Sanofi Pasteur also develop more specific artificial immune systems?

According to Dr. Warren, they are also “developing MIMIC systems for various populations, e.g., elderly, neonates, allergies, etc.  We are currently making biomimetic systems of the lung, liver, uro-genital, and placental barrier.”

Drug and Vaccine Testing Via Artificial Models

Although there have been computer models to simulate the human immune system before, this research provides new promise for the goal of decreasing time and costs associated with the development of drugs and vaccines. As more MIMIC systems are developed, further in-depth research may show how the human immune systems reacts at different ages and stages, thus benefiting the process of developing and refining treatments and preventative measures for all populations.

Resources:

Warren, W., et al. In vitro Biomimetic Model of the Human Immune System for Predictive Vaccine Assessments. (2012). Disruptive Science and Technology. Accessed May 16, 2012.

Zyga, L. Researchers Build Artificial Immune System to Solve Computational Problems. (2009). PhysOrg. Accessed May 16, 2012.

Timmis, J., Neal, M., Hunt, J. An artificial immune system for data analysis. (2000). Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd. Accessed May 16, 2012.

VaxDesign Corporation.  MIMIC® system. Accessed May 16, 2012.

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