Cancer immunologists at the University of California (UC) Berkeley, in collaboration with Aduro Biotech, have launched a new initiative to accelerate breakthroughs in the treatment and prevention of cancer, and infectious and autoimmune diseases.

The Immunotherapeutics and Vaccine Research Initiative (IVRI) is UC Berkeley’s first immunotherapy-focused initiative that is designed to discover and advance immunotherapeutics and vaccine strategies.

As part of the initiative, researchers will investigate a new class of immune system stimulants called cyclic di-nucleotides, which have the potential to shrink tumours and bolster vaccines against tuberculosis.

“In the last several years, we have learned so much about the role of the immune system in treating disease.”

The initiative also involves research that could help re-arm the immune system’s natural killer cells, which normally attack cancer cells and virus-infected cells, to better fight tumours.

UC Berkeley immunology and pathogenesis professor David Raulet said: "In the last several years, we have learned so much about the role of the immune system in treating disease, and we look forward to harnessing that information across both research and industry to develop innovative new treatment options to improve patient care.

"Through this initiative, we will leverage our powerful research networks to understand how we can better engage the immune system in treating cancer, infectious disease and autoimmune disease. By doing this, we hope to develop new methods for targeting and effectively controlling many different cancers, autoimmune and infectious diseases. Our goal is for these findings to pave the way for the development of innovative new treatment options."

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The IVRI is being backed by a $7.5m funding from Aduro Biotech, which develops immunotherapies for cancer and other diseases.

The research funding will be provided over the next three years, with an option for Aduro to increase and extend funding for up to an additional three years.

Aduro is already using UC Berkeley’s technology, including attenuated Listeria monocytogenes mutants and methods to engineer these bacteria to stimulate the immune system as vaccines for immunotherapy.