Meet Calviri: The PBC company developing a vaccine for cancer

Meet Calviri: The PBC company developing a vaccine for cancer

Calviri, Inc. is a Phoenix Bioscience Core-based company is working on a vaccine for cancer – yes, you read that correctly. 

The Arizona State University Biodesign Institute spinout is in 850 PBC working on an RNA-based vaccine for cancer, and they’re doing so using one of the largest veterinary trials in history by working with people with dogs as pets. Hundreds of dogs are currently enrolled in a preventative vaccine trial, which is showing great promise, founder Dr. Stephen Johnston told Arizona Horizon.

“To make a vaccine against cancer, you have to have something that makes it look foreign, and people were looking at DNA for a long time,” said Johnston. “We decided to look at the RNA level, in which we discovered that there’s a lot of shared foreignness between different tumors, and so we focused on RNA.”

The vaccine’s biological foreignness is based on frameshift neoantigens, which are foreign pieces of protein. For a tumor to survive in the body, it creates these neoantigens. The immune system can recognize these as a foreign object and treat them as if they were an infection. 

“You’re trying to take advantage of its Achilles’ heel,” Johnston told AZPBS. “Vaccines look very very safe, they have a long history, cancer vaccines in particular.”

Watch the interview about Calviri with Arizona PBS here, which is part of the PBC-supported “Health Tomorrow” segment highlight life science research happening around the Valley (the interview starts around the 20:30 mark).

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