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Immunotherapy is a delicate balance: You have to rally a patient’s immune cells into action to kill diseased cells, but keep them away from healthy tissues. Vedantra Pharmaceuticals, a startup based in Cambridge, Mass., is working on a way to refine that process.

The company has developed next-gen nanoparticle vaccines — engineering vesicles that help ferry the therapy straight to the lymph nodes. That helps the body generate a stronger immune response. The work, based on research at MIT, is still preclinical, but Vedantra hopes it can be used to bolster cancer treatments. It’s focusing first on malignancies provoked by the HPV virus — such as cervical and head and neck cancer.


We chatted with Darrell Irvine, a biological engineering professor at MIT and co-founder of Vedantra, which is backed in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation:

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