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GeoVax and Emory University to Collaborate on HPV Therapeutic Program for Head and Neck Cancers


GeoVax Labs, Inc. (OTCQB: GOVX), a biotechnology company developing human vaccines, announced today that it is collaborating with Emory University on the development of a therapeutic vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, with a specific focus on head and neck cancer (HNC).

The GeoVax/Emory collaboration will include testing GeoVax’s MVA-VLP-HPV vaccine candidates in therapeutic animal models of HPV in the laboratory of Dr. Rafi Ahmed, Director of the Emory Vaccine Center. Dr. Ahmed, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, is a world-renowned immunologist whose work during the past decade has been highly influential in shaping understanding of memory T cell differentiation and T and B cell-mediated antiviral immunity. 

GeoVax’s vaccine technology is based on its Modified Vaccinia Ankara (MVA) Virus-Like Particle (VLP) platform, which generates noninfectious VLPs in the individual being vaccinated. Gene sequences of target antigens are inserted into the MVA genome which drives their expression in infected cells. In addition, GeoVax introduces into the viral genome matrix sequences that incorporate antigens into VLPs and simultaneously facilitate their budding from the membranes of infected cells. In this way, vaccination induces two pools of antigens as targets for the immune response – virus-infected cells and released VLPs. This strategy mimics a natural viral infection, triggering the body to produce a robust and durable immune response with involvement of both antibodies and T cells.

In related immuno-oncology studies in rodent solid tumor models, combination therapy consisting of the GeoVax vaccine designed to target MUC1-secreting tumors plus an anti-PD1 antibody and a protein supplied by ViaMune, Inc., successfully arrested progressive growth of the targeted tumors. 

Farshad Guirakhoo, PhD, GeoVax’s Chief Scientific Officer, commented, “We are pleased to begin this collaboration with Emory University to further expand GeoVax’s promising pipeline of preventive and therapeutic vaccines against a variety of infectious diseases and cancers. Our collaboration with Emory on the HPV project is extremely valuable as it was Dr. Ahmed who first discovered in 2006 that the PD-1 pathway could also be exploited by many pathogens to repress normal T cell function during chronic viral infection. This led to development of numerous blockbuster anti-PD1 antibodies currently being used for treatment of various cancers and which hold promise as adjunctive therapy for several chronic infectious diseases. GeoVax’s MVA-VLP vaccine candidates have demonstrated eliciting strong antigen-specific CD8+ T cell responses in the host that is critical to fight against HPV infections in HNC patients. To increase the therapeutic efficacy of our HPV vaccine, we intend to apply a combination strategy which could include co-administration of anti-PD1 antibodies and/or other newly discovered immunotherapy drugs to improve a patient’s own anti-cancer immune response.”

Dr. Ahmed stated, “This is an important research area as there are currently no medical treatments for chronic HPV infections, which can lead to the formation of cancerous tumors. We look forward to working with GeoVax on these initial proof-of-concept studies.”

About HPV / Head and Neck Cancers

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States (exceeded only by heart disease) and accounts for one of every four deaths. About 14 million new genital HPV infectionsoccur each year, and the CDC estimates that more than 90% and 80%, respectively, of sexually active men and women will be infected by HPV, a common sexually transmitted virus,at some point in their lives. Around one-half of these infections are categorized as “high-risk” which can lead to several types of cancers including cervical, anal, and HNC. In the United States, 44,430 new cases of Oral Cavity and Pharynx cancers (which includes the tonsils, soft palate, and base of the tongue,collectively known as HNC) were reported, and 9,754 people died of HNC in 2015 (the last year of which incident data are available). About 70% of HNC are linked to HPV infections. Source: National Cancer Institute and CDC.

About the Emory Vaccine Center

The Emory Vaccine Center represents the largest and most comprehensive academic vaccine center in the world and is renowned for its expertise in cellular immunity and immune memory. This expertise leads to the creation of new technologies for the prevention of emerging infectious diseases. Established in 1996 with support from Emory University and the Georgia Research Alliance, the Emory Vaccine Center has 17 faculty who study AIDS, malaria, and other global infectious disease threats.

About GeoVax

GeoVax Labs, Inc., is a clinical-stage biotechnology company developing human vaccines against infectious diseases using its MVA-VLP vaccine platform. GeoVax was the winner of the 2018 “Best Biotech” Vaccine Industry Excellence Awards, a finalist for the 2018 “Best Prophylactic Vaccine” Award for its Zika vaccine at the World Vaccine Congress, as well as a finalist for Pipelines of Promise at Buzz of Bio 2018. The Company’s development programs are focused on vaccines against HIV, Zika, hemorrhagic fever viruses (Ebola, Sudan, Marburg, Lassa) and malaria. GeoVax also is evaluating the use of its MVA-VLP platform in cancer immunotherapy, and for therapeutic use in chronic Hepatitis B infections. GeoVax’s vaccine platform supports in vivoproduction of non-infectious VLPs from the cells of the very person receiving the vaccine. The production of VLPs in the person being vaccinated mimics virus production in a natural infection, stimulating both the humoral and cellular arms of the immune system to recognize, prevent, and control the target infection. For more information, visit

Forward-Looking Statements

Certain statements in this document are "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act. These statements are based on management's current expectations and are subject to uncertainty and changes in circumstances. Actual results may differ materially from those included in these statements due to a variety of factors, including whether: GeoVax can develop and manufacture its vaccines with the desired characteristics in a timely manner, GeoVax's vaccines will be safe for human use, GeoVax's vaccines will effectively prevent targeted infections in humans, GeoVax’s vaccines will receive regulatory approvals necessary to be licensed and marketed, GeoVax raises required capital to complete vaccine development, there is development of competitive products that may be more effective or easier to use than GeoVax's products, GeoVax will be able to enter into favorable manufacturing and distribution agreements, and other factors over which GeoVax has no control. GeoVax assumes no obligation to update these forward-looking statements. More information about these factors is contained in GeoVax's filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission including those under "Risk Factors" in its Form 10-K.