GEN-003 herpes vaccine developed by Genocea has given hope to millions people. The company has finally announced positive results for a phase 2 trials. We all hope that in the future herpes vaccine will be help minimize the spreading of herpes virus and bring the number of people who get infected each year down.
We could just review the data presented by Genocea and share scientists’ opinion on herpes vaccine development in this article, but would herpes patients actually benefit from it? Would it cure herpes, or stop the virus from spreading further? The answer is no.
Quick recap: Genocea has just shared the data for the first 6 months of a 12-month research for a phase 2, and the results seem to be very promising. Their study included 310 participants in 17 different institutions. The subjects were assigned to 6 different groups and received different vaccine dosages. The last, seventh, group received placebo, and was rolled into an active study after 28 days. The group that had received the highest dosage (60 µg/75) showed the best results: 55% decrease in viral shedding, and lesions decrease ranging from 43% to 69% This is good news for herpes patients, and even better news for Genocea since their stock price rose 35% in just a few days from 3.97 to 7.74. Genocea’s CEO Chip Clark said that herpes vaccine could make more than 1 billion in sales one day.
But keep in mind, that herpes vaccine is not the same thing as herpes cure. It is more like a herpes treatment that needs to be taken every year. Of course, it is more convenient that most common herpes treatments, but the vaccine can only minimize the viral shedding approximately by 50%, which means that 50% of the time it won’t stop the virus shedding. Some scientists believe that a number of days the virus sheds depends on a number of outbreaks per year. And the number of outbreaks per year in many cases depends on immune system and the amount of stress. However, many professionals are concerned about the fact that the lower dosage of herpes vaccine in µg hasn’t proven to be very effective. And the company still hasn’t confirmed whether the decrease in viral shedding after receiving the vaccine led to a decrease in a number of outbreaks a patient experienced per year.
Another important question we should ask ourselves is how will this affect immune system? The vaccine is actually an immunotherapy which was created to treat genital herpes and other viruses by inducing T cell and B cell (antibody) immune responses. For now, the vaccine is considered to be safe. But we all know that many of FDA approved treatments still cause side affects even when they are considered to be safe.
How could this herpes vaccine change the lives of herpes patients? Will people worry less about spreading the virus and act irresponsibly? Will people worry less about their health and immune system?
Genocea’s meeting with FDA is scheduled for the first quarter of 2017. If the vaccine will be approved by FDA, it will be the beginning of a new era. Hopefully, a better and healthier one.