Progress toward a vaccine for celiac disease

By Jason Clevenger

Summary: Australian and Dutch scientists working in collaboration with ImmunsanT, a U.S biopharmaceutical company, reported the first direct visualization of the molecular interactions between gluten and cellular proteins. These interactions are responsible for initiating the immune system response that ultimately leads to celiac disease for patients with the HLA DQ8 gene.

Conclusion: Understanding the intricacies of how the immune system senses gluten is an important step in the development of a method that can prevent the cascade of immune responses associated with celiac disease. ImmunsanT is currently testing a vaccine candidate called Nexvax2, which is based on “desensitization” therapies traditionally employed for allergic reactions. The vaccine contains three protein fragments associated with gluten that are known to reliably trigger the immune response of people who have the HLA DQ2 gene carried by 90 percent of the celiac disease population. These research findings related to the less-common HLA DQ8 gene create the foundation for development of a different vaccine for the smaller group of people who carry it.


[1] “Link Between Gluten and Immune Reaction Revealed for HLA-DQ8 Celiac Disease”, ImmunsanT press release October 11, 2012 from

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