New technology for Zika vaccine development licensed by INBT researchers

Pharos Biologicals, LLC (Pharos) has been awarded the exclusive worldwide licenses for a patented Lysosome-Associated Membrane Protein (LAMP) DNA vaccine technology, as well as for certain nanotechnologies to deliver the vaccines, by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The worldwide licenses are for use in the development and delivery of vaccines for influenza and flaviviruses.

Pharos was formed in December 2015 by J. Thomas August, M.D., University Distinguished Service Professor of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences and Oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology. The initial focus of the company is on the Zika vaccine development, to be followed by vaccines for dengue and influenza viruses.  The company anticipates that it will be ready to begin Phase 1 clinical trials of its Zika vaccine candidate by autumn of 2016.

The Baltimore Sun has reported the news here.

Dr. J. Thomas August (PRNewsFoto/Pharos Biologicals)

Dr. J. Thomas August (PRNewsFoto/Pharos Biologicals)

The LAMP technology was validated commercially in October 2015 when a license awarded by Johns Hopkins to Immunomic Therapeutics, Inc. for allergen vaccines was sold to Astellas, a global pharmaceutical company, for $300 million.

The LAMP technology, invented by Dr. August, represents a breakthrough in the application of DNA vaccines by the use of normal cellular mechanisms to enhance the immune response to the vaccine. Most vaccines use a weakened form of a pathogen in which a live, but reduced virulence version of the virus is introduced into the body. The LAMP DNA vaccine is not a live virus vaccine, has a more rapid development timeline, delivers the pathogen antigen directly to cell proteins that bring about immunological responses, and is highly stable.

The threat that Zika virus poses is growing, with the WHO declaring a state of Public Health Emergency of International Concernon February 1, 2016, and it is expected that travel-associated cases will increase ( The virus can also be spread by sexual transmission, which potentially raises the risk of spread.

Pharos is also supported by research directed by Prof. Hai-Quan Mao PhD in Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the Whiting School of Engineering, and the Translational Tissue Engineering Center at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and an Associate Director of the Institute for NanoBioTechnology at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Mao was the 2015 winner of the Cohen Translational Engineering Award and the Louis B. Thalheimer Award for Translational Research.

Hai-Quan Mao (Mary Spiro/INBT)

Hai-Quan Mao (Mary Spiro/INBT)

David W. Wise, a business executive with sixteen years of C-Level experience and who has been active in the medtech startup and venture capital community in Baltimore as the Venture Advisor to the Abell Foundation for the past several years, serves as Chief Executive Officer of Pharos.

For more information on the LAMP Vaccine technology and Pharos Biologicals, visit

To learn more about Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology, visit

Written by Daniel Waldman for Pharos Biologicals.

For media inquiries regarding INBT, contact Mary Spiro at

Podcast: Shaping polymers for biomedical use

In this edition of the Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology Nanobyte podcast, Hai-Quan Mao, professor of materials science and engineering at Johns Hopkins University, discusses his work with polymers and their potential applications for medicine.

Slide1 In the Mao lab, researchers are using multi-molecule structures called polymers and forming them into different shapes for biomedical applications such as tissue engineering, nerve regeneration, and drug delivery. Mao uses natural models, such virus, as shape templates for designing nanoparticles with specific capabilities.

Listen to the podcast on Mixcloud here.

Visit the Mao Research Group here.

For all press inquiries regarding INBT, its faculty and programs, contact Mary Spiro, or 410-516-4802.

REU student profile: Ian Reucroft

Sitting at what looks like a pottery wheeled turned on its side, Ian Reucroft is using a method called electrospinning to create a nano-scale polymer fiber embedded with a drug that encourages nerve growth. The strand is barely visible to the eye, but the resulting fibers resemble spider web.

Ian Reucroft, a rising junior in Biomedical Engineering at Rutgers University, is working in the medical school campus laboratory of Hai-Quan Mao, professor of materials sciences and engineering at Johns Hopkins University. He is part of Johns Hopkins Institute for NanoBioTechnology’s summer REU, or research experience for undergraduates program.

Ian Reucroft in the Mao lab. Photo by Mary Spiro.

Ian Reucroft in the Mao lab. Photo by Mary Spiro.

“We are developing a material to help regrow nerves, either in central or peripheral nervous systems,” said Ian. One method of doing that he explained is to make nanofibers and incorporating a drug into those fibers, drugs that promote neuronic growth or cell survival or various other beneficial qualities. The Mao lab is looking into a relatively new and not well-studied drug called Sunitinib that promotes neuronal survival.

“We make a solution of the component to make the fiber, which is this case is polylactic acid (PLA), and the drug, which I have to dissolve into the solution,” Ian said. Although the drug seems to remain stable in solution, one of the challenges Ian has faced has been improving the distribution of the drug along the fiber.

This is Ian’s first experience with electrospinning but not his first time conducting research. He plans to pursue a PhD in biomedical engineering and remain in academia.

For all press inquiries regarding INBT, its faculty and programs, contact Mary Spiro, or 410-516-4802.