The Nebuta Research Institute for Life Sciences is a chair for drug discovery purposes established at Aomori University and supported by Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED). The predecessor of this chair, the Department of Vaccine Immunology, was established by the Hokkaido University Headquarters at the Medical School in April 2017 as a chair for industry creation. The purpose of the establishment is to promote the creation of vaccine adjuvants in collaboration with government and industry. The specific task is to introduce ARNAX (see separate sections), an immunostimulating, non-inflammatory adjuvant that targets dendritic cells, into clinical trials. In layman’s terms, the aim is to contribute to healthy longevity by creating immune-enhancing drugs.

Adjuvant for cancer immunotherapy

 Immunotherapy has attracted attention in recent years as the fourth treatment modality in cancer treatment, following surgery, anticancer drugs and radiotherapy. Immunity is a mechanism that recognizes and eliminates foreign substances and also contains a mechanism that controls excessive immune responses and protects the self. Immune checkpoint inhibitors such as PD-1 antibodies activate the immune system by releasing the immune system’s negative regulatory mechanisms, leading to cancer regression. However, immune checkpoint inhibitors are only effective in ~20% of solid tumors, and only in some cancer patients. The importance of CTL induction in cancer regression was reaffirmed.

Adjuvant for Infectious Diseases

 Humans are constantly exposed to diverse microbial environments to maintain their survival. Human populations exhibit heterogeneous infection responsiveness from individual to individual through infectious selection. Host responsiveness, rather than the microorganisms themselves, is the mainstay of infectious diseases. Vaccines, on the other hand, have been discussed empirically in the context of the ‘twice-never phenomenon of infection’ and ‘vaccines since Jenner’. Vaccines consist of an antigen and an adjuvant. It can be said that the immune response was established as an essential mechanism to avoid micro-organisms, but the immune response to vaccines varies from individual to individual infection, and vaccines need to be boosted by adjuvants. There are also adverse reactions where an over-response induces an inappropriate response in the host. The development of safe and versatile adjuvants that can be used in vaccines against infectious diseases, even in the elderly and patients with underlying diseases, is an essential issue.