Background: LAG-3 (CD223) is a natural high affinity ligand for MHC class II. The soluble form (sLAG-3) induces maturation of monocyte-derived dendritic cells in vitro and is used as a potent Th1-like immune enhancer with many antigens in animal models. To extend this observation to human, a proof of concept study was conducted with a clinical-grade sLAG-3, termed IMP321, coinjected with alum-non-absorbed recombinant hepatitis B surface antigen.
Methods: In a randomised, single blind controlled phase I dose escalation study, 48 seronegative healthy volunteers aged 18-55 years were vaccinated at 0, 4 and 8 weeks by subcutaneous injection with 10 microg HBsAg mixed with saline (control) or with IMP321 at one of four doses (3, 10, 30 and 100 microg). To evaluate the efficacy of this three injections over 2 months immunization protocol, an additional control group was injected with the commercial vaccine Engerix-B.
Results: IMP321 was very well tolerated. Indeed, a lower incidence of adverse events was reported from the HBsAg plus IMP321 groups than from the Engerix-B group. HBsAg-specific antibody responses (anti-HBs) appeared sooner and were higher at 8 and 12 weeks in IMP321 recipients compared to HBsAg control subjects. More importantly, increased numbers of responders to HBsAg were found in IMP321 recipients compared HBsAg group, as revealed by higher post-vaccination frequencies of CD4 Th1 or CD8 Tc1 antigen specific T cells. IMP321 induced CD4 Th1 antigen-specific T cells in some of these naïve individuals after only one injection, especially in the 10 and 30 microg dose groups.
Conclusion: IMP321 as an adjuvant to HBsAg was well-tolerated and enhanced T cell response vaccine immunogenicity (i.e. induced both CD4 Th1 and CD8 Tc1 antigen-specific T cells). This latter property has allowed the development of IMP321 as an immunopotentiator for therapeutic vaccines.