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Ivan Delgado
Ivan Delgado's picture

At this year's qPCR Symposium in Freising, Germany, Kary Mullis gave a keynote speach about how he discovered PCR and what he is doing these days. The name of his new invention is: Altermune. In simple terms, it is a way to alter your immune system so that you do not get sick from infections. 
Here is how it works: traditionally (since the 1970s) we've vaccinated ourselves with a dead/damaged version of the pathogen we hope to be protected against. This lead to the creating of a new immune response in our bodies which creates the antibodies that will protects us from further infection. Sometimes this requires multiple injections as we are all more than aware. Altermune on the other hand takes an already present full strength immune response and temporarily redirects it to some target to which you now want to be immune. In this respect it is immediate: you take the altermune drug and you are automatically protected (unlike vaccines that require weeks to months to fully establish a new immune response).
As for the altermune drug, it would be nothing more than a linker molecule with two different ends. On one end you would have a peptide that is recognized by the current immune response so that it would attract the immune response (antibodies and related cells). On the other end you would actually have the organism you want to be immune against, like a virus of bacteria. You do not really need the whole organism, just part of it, but in the end whatever is easiest to synthesize would be the molecule of choice (for example viruses are covered by nothing more than the same protein(s) assembled into a capsid).
Very interesting stuff. PCR revolutionized biological sciences. Who knows what altermune drugs will do to medicine. For an interview where Kary Mullis talks about altermune drugs, click here