[READ MORE: SCNTs Hold Big Promise](https://lunalabs.us/scnts-big-promise/)
[READ MORE: SCNTs Hold Big Promise](https://lunalabs.us/scnts-big-promise/)
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We can envision a future where we are vaccinating, on an annual basis, for many more diseases than we do now. Because of the flexibility and speed at which we can customize payloads, we will be able to quickly adapt to hit the right target at the right time with the right treatment.
Chris Tison head shot
Chris Tison, PhD
Director of Biotech at Luna Labs

In a paper recently published in Vaccines, researchers from Luna Labs and the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at Columbia University describe a scalable layer-by-layer multiple antigen nano-delivery platform for SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. 

We talked with Chris Tison, Director of Biotech at Luna Labs, about the implications of this ‘plug-and-play’ platform technology to improve how therapeutics and vaccines are administered in the future. 

LL: The paper talks about the SARS-CoV-2 challenge. What is the challenge and why are we still focusing on this disease?  

CT: In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, several vaccines were approved and successfully demonstrated a reduction in the severity and spread of infection. However, the virus continues to mutate and people are still getting sick. We need safer, shelf-stable vaccine formulations with composition controllability, high loading efficiency, and low price to address this and future pandemic threats and disease outbreaks.  

We believe the ideal next-generation vaccine delivery platform must be carefully designed to induce broadly neutralizing antibody and cellular responses to achieve full and long-lasting protection. Ideally, this next-generation vaccine platform will be what we call ‘plug-and-play’. That means it will be able to deliver multiple immunogens (the payload that causes immune response) simultaneously. It means we can scale and change the payload quickly.  

The groundwork was laid by all the investment and research previously done on mRNA vaccines. Now it’s time to leverage that knowledge to create scalable vaccine solutions that can be deployed as rapidly and efficiently as possible.

LL: Tell us more about this new vaccine delivery approach. It’s described in the paper as a ‘layer-by-layer’ multiple antigen nano-delivery platform. 

CT: Layer-by-layer is an efficient way to deliver multiple antigens for better control and precision in delivering the vaccine or therapeutic. Essentially, we layer different materials onto nanoparticles (which are much smaller than the width of a human hair). Each layer serves a different purpose such as protecting, stabilizing, targeting, or releasing the vaccine at the right time or helping the immune system accept and respond to the vaccine. 

This precise delivery of the vaccine should lead to stronger and longer-lasting immune response and protection against disease. That’s the goal. 

At Luna Labs, our layer-by-layer nanotech work began on malaria, using chitosan-based nanoparticles to first activate cellular response to immediately attack and destroy infected cells then to activate humeral response to produce antibodies for long-term protection.  

We’ve continued this work by expanding its use into COVID-19 vaccines with delivery of multiple different immunogens implicated in that disease. 

LL: Outside of layer-by-layer technology, are there any other vaccine delivery efforts underway?

CT: We are working on another exciting tech we call NanoVac™. It is a short carbon nanotube-based platform developed by Luna Labs to deliver a broad range of biologics (antigens or therapeutics) safely and efficiently via multiple administration routes. While there have been significant advances in current mRNA vaccines, they continue to have drawbacks. Delivery via lipid nanoparticles has known inflammatory reactions and no innate immune response. Alternatively, the NanoVac platform ‘mimics’ virus structure, protecting mRNA from degradation and enhancing mRNA uptake and expression in the cells.  

Part of the breakthrough is using short carbon nanotubes (SCNTs) to carry and protect the delivery – in this case the vaccine. SCNTs are tiny tubes made of carbon, sort of like drinking straws but so small they can’t even be seen under a microscope. They carry and protect their cargo, then stimulate the immune system to respond. With SCNTs, we can improve precision, stability, and efficiency of vaccine and drug delivery to ultimately improve patient experiences and outcomes.  

LL: What are the next steps to bringing these approaches to clinics and patients? 

CT: Our cross-disciplinary expertise at Luna Labs, particularly in biology, immunology, chemistry, and advanced materials, puts us in a unique position to understand and target delivery of complex payloads into the body. We have a deep and long-standing relationship with our collaborators at Columbia University who bring expertise in specific disease and animal models. Our research programs have proven we can elicit vaccine responses. 

To bring these approaches to the next level, we are seeking pharma partners who need a rapid delivery system for targets within their pipelines.  

The horizon is broad. We have unique approaches that can be scaled to clinical relevancy and we are excited to expand payloads and indications. Ultimately, we envision a future where our healthcare systems can respond quickly and with longer, sustained protection against existing and emerging diseases. 

Vaccines 2024, 12(3), 339; https://doi.org/10.3390/vaccines12030339 

Dr. Tison directs all Luna Labs biotech activities across a wide range of applications including wound healing and regenerative medicine, pharma and diagnostics, biomedical wearables and sensors, and medical simulation products. Working with government, academic, and commercial partners, the biotech group is developing unique state-of-the-art healthcare technologies. 

Dr. Tison received a PhD in Materials Science and Engineering, Biomaterials from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is currently completing his Executive MBA from the College of William and Mary.


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