A vaccine to protect people with celiac disease from the harmful effects of gluten develops.
Celiac disease is caused by an immune response to the gluten protein and is estimated to affect 1 in 70 New Zealand and 1.4 percent of the global population.
A first attempt of drug in New Zealand and Australia was successful, and researchers were now looking for volunteers in Auckland, Wellington and Havelock North for the next test phase.
Celiac New Zealand's Director General Dana Alexander said the program identified a way to desensitize the body's immune response to gluten – similar to deactivating an allergic response.
"If the vaccination succeeded, the vaccine would allow people with the disease to be free from the risk of being" gluten "which would be particularly beneficial when eating away from home or where safe gluten-free options are not available."
Dunedin born researcher Dr Bob Anderson has been working on the drug Nexvax2 at the Massachusetts biotechnology company ImmusanT since 2012.
In 2014, Phase 1 attempts at places including Auckland researchers taught that celiac symptoms were triggered by T cells that responded quickly to gluten peptides.
It also showed that the immune system could be retrained to ignore gluten peptides by administering repeated doses of Nexvax2.
The phase two study aimed at demonstrating that regular doses of the drug could protect against the effects of single exposure of gluten in celiac patients who did their best to avoid gluten.
"The goal of Nexvax2 is to not replace the gluten-free diet, but to protect against acute symptoms due to accidental gluten exposure, an overly common problem that celiac patients often face," he said.
But Anderson hoped that one day Nexvax2 could go one step further and allow relaxation of dietary restrictions in people with the disease.
For more information about participation in the studies, call 0800 STUDIES in Auckland, 04 801 0002 in Wellington or 0800 141 559 in Havelock North.