I wrote to Dr. Huang, the University of California San Diego doctor coordinating research on a potential acne vaccine. He is a great guy and spent a long time with me, answering all of my questions. Here’s what I found out:
– First of all, before we get excited, a vaccine, should it happen, is still ten years away he says. This is because scientists stopped work on the first P. acnes vaccine. They had too much concern that P. acnes may be beneficial to our bodies in some way to justify killing it off. Instead they have turned to working on a vaccine that targets a toxin that the P. acnes bacteria secretes. This toxin is called the CAMP factor. The new hope is that they can turn off this CAMP factor toxin using a novel new approach to making vaccines called proteomics which deals with protein markers on cell surfaces.
– The team produced and successfully treated mice with an initial CAMP factor vaccine. When I asked, “so if the same results you’ve seen in mice occurred in humans, would this be a cure for acne?” Dr. Huang responded with a quick and confident, “Oh yes.” That got me excited of course, but this is a big if. Dr. Huang went on to say that there is no good animal model for an acne vaccine because animals do not produce the sebum (skin oil) that humans produce, which is so integral in the formation of acne. So it remains to be seen whether humans experience similar results.
– The next step is for the doctors to detoxify the vaccine before starting a human clinical trial. They also need to fund such a trial. Clinical trials are long, expensive processes. This vaccine’s clinical trial process will likely go on for a decade and cost in the millions of dollars. If you know anyone who might be interested in funding the research, let me know and I’ll put you in touch with Dr. Huang.
Please respond with any questions you have and I’ll try to pass along as many of them as I can to Dr. Huang.