Feeling the Heat from COVID-19? Heat Biologics May Have an Answer​​​​​​​

Heat Bio logo

For those feeling the health and economic heat from COVID-19 – and that’s just about everyone – Heat Biologics says it could soon offer up a potential solution.

The Morrisville-based clinical-stage biotech company specializes in disease-fighting therapies that activate patients’ immune systems. So it is working on a vaccine that tackles the COVID-19 coronavirus on two fronts. Heat’s gp96 platform triggers the human immune system to both attack the coronavirus and then protect against its reoccurrence. Heat said its vaccine will clear virus infected cells and promote long-term cellular immunity to prevent re-infection in high-risk patients.

The company said it is working with the University of Miami on the therapy, which is targeted toward the elderly and others with underlying health conditions. Plans are to complete development this year, while also producing proof-of-concept data to show that the vaccine can work. Heat said it will apply for several grants to support clinical development. It is considering other collaborations as well.

The gp96 technology already has undergone rigorous mouse and primate trials as a vaccine against SIV/HIV, malaria, zika and other infectious diseases, according to the company. These trials have shown antiviral activity in the lungs and a strong immune response in several disease models.

Heat Bio CEO Jeff Wolf.
Heat Bio CEO Jeff Wolf.
-- Heat Biologics photo

Heat’s main focus has been on therapies to treat cancer. But it has also begun to use its technological know-how to pursue treatments for coronavirus and other infectious diseases. The North Carolina Biotechnology Center provided the biotech firm’s first outside funding, a $225,000 Strategic Growth Loan after attracting the company to North Carolina in 2011 and supplying its original offices in the Center’s Landing Pad area.

 “We’re making progress advancing our COVID-19 vaccine program and remain encouraged by the potential of our platform to provide broad cellular and humoral (antibody) protection against COVID-19, as well as possible future mutations of other coronaviruses,” Heat CEO Jeff Wolf said. “We are finalizing completion of the vaccine and plan to commence preclinical testing this quarter...We expect to report our preliminary data shortly thereafter.”

Heat also recently added a rapid point-of-care COVID-19 diagnostic to its product development pipeline. It is working with the University of Miami to develop the patient-friendly throat swab test that will deliver on-the-spot results in less than 30 minutes. The test will use molecular recognition to detect exposure to the virus. 

Bryant Haskins
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