A vaccine to protect people with celiac diseases from the adverse effects of gluten is being developed.
Galiac disease is caused by immune response to the gluten protein and is estimated to affect 1 in 70 of New Zealand and 1.4 per cent of the global population.
The initial test of the drug in New Zealand and Australia was successful and researchers are now looking for volunteers in Auckland, Wellington and Havelock North for the next stage of testing.
New Zealand's general manager, Dana Alexander, said the program identified a way of uninstalling the body's immune response to gluten – similar to refusing an allergic reaction.
"If it were successful, the vaccine would enable people with the disease free of the risk of being glutened and would particularly beneficial when eating home or where gluten free safe options are not available. "
Dunedin, researcher Dr Bob Anderson, has been working on the drug, Nexvax2, a Massachusetts ImmusanT biotechnology company since 2012.
In 2014, step one trials in locations including Auckland researchers taught that the symptoms of celiac are triggered by T cells responding rapidly to gluten peptides.
It also showed that the immune system could be re-organized to ignore gluten peptides by administering repetitive doses of Nexvax2.
The aim of the phase two study was to show that the regular dose of the drug could protect against the effects of only one gluten exposure in celiac patients doing their best to avoid gluten.
"The goal with Nexvax2 is to not replace the gluten diet, but to protect from acute symptoms due to unintended gluten exposure, there is a too common problem faced by celiac patients," he said.
However, Anderson hoped that one day Nexvax2 can go further and allow relaxation of dietary restrictions among people with the disease.
To find out more about taking part in the studies call 0800 STUDIES in Auckland, 04 801 0002 in Wellington or 0800 141 559 at Havelock North.