The Laboratory of Adjuvant and Antigen Research (LAAR) consists of two sections: Adjuvants and Formulation and Antigens and Immunology. LAAR has been a pioneer in developing adjuvant formulations and delivery systems as platform technologies that can be used with any vaccine to improve the quantity, quality, and the durability as well as the functional immune responses.
LAAR developed a family of adjuvant formulations known as the Army Liposome Formulation (ALF) and the technique of needle-free transcutaneous immunization (TCI), both of which will be used in Phase 1 clinical trials with HIV vaccines.
ALF consists of liposomes containing monophosphoryl lipid A. The liposomes can be formulated with a saponin, QS21, to form ALFQ. In addition, ALF and ALFQ can be formulated with aluminum hydroxide to form ALFA and ALFQA, respectively.
One of LAAR’s major goals is to utilize adjuvant formulations to build on the immune correlates identified by the RV144 study and define the mechanism(s) of action of ALF adjuvants. With this in mind, LAAR continues to develop novel antigen and adjuvant formulations and conduct cutting edge pre-clinical research to evaluate the antigenicity and immunogenicity of HIV-1 vaccine formulations including the development, characterization, and immunogenicity of self-assembling protein nanoparticle (SAPN) in small animals and in nonhuman primates. In addition, LAAR is developing novel assays to evaluate preclinical and clinical samples including surface plasmon resonance, integrin binding inhibition, ADCC, ADCP, and viral capture.
LAAR, in collaboration with the Naval Medical Research Center, has established the humanized DRAGA mouse as a model for HIV pathogenesis and is conducting studies to also establish it as a HIV cure model.
Another active area of research led by Dr. Gary Matyas is in the field of opioid vaccines. In order to limit the spread of HIV through the increased use of injection drug abuse, LAAR is at the forefront of conducting heroin vaccine research and this has resulted in the development of a heroin vaccine. This vaccine will soon be evaluated in a Phase I clinical trial.
LAAR has multiple internal and external collaborations with academia, government, and commercial entities for the use of ALF adjuvants for various diseases. The pioneering research work on adjuvants and vaccine development being carried out at LAAR fills a gap identified in the vaccine field, is a key strength of MHRP and WRAIR, and directly addresses MHRP’s mission.