Emergex receives Innovate UK Grant to progress flu vaccine

The biotechnology company, which is aiming to find a new approach to vaccine development, has received a grant to progress its development programme

Emergex Vaccines, based in Abingdon UK, has announced that Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, has awarded the company a grant of £979,318 to progress its universal flu vaccine programme through preclinical development. The biotechnology company is pioneering a new approach to vaccine development in the field of infectious diseases.

The grant will be used to complete pre-clinical toxicology and validation studies and the manufacturing of the vaccine in accordance with current good manufacturing practice (cGMP).

This will result in clinical batches of the vaccine, which are ready for Phase I clinical testing in the first half of 2020.

This funding will cover 70% of the cost of developing Emergex’s flu vaccine programme for a period of two years.

Emergex’s vaccine combines several proprietary technologies to create an immune response based on reverse engineering. This involves the identification of highly conserved internal peptide fragments from the flu virus, synthesis of these peptide fragments to create a library of 100% synthetic peptide fragments and screening these against blood from flu survivors to see which of the fragments elicit the strongest T-cell immune response.

The selected peptide fragments are then combined with a gold nanotechnology carrier system to make an extremely small particle, less than 5nm in diameter, which is ideal for immunisation through the skin using a micro-needle skin patch, which is less invasive than traditional injection. This technology is licensed through an exclusive deal with Midatech Pharma.

The new universal flu vaccine is designed to target components of the influenza virus that are common to all influenza strains. As a result this vaccine will also be suitable to target the outbreak of a new flu pandemic caused by the emergence of a novel form of influenza virus at the time it moves from an animal species into humans.

Professor Thomas Rademacher, co-founder, CEO and CSO at Emergex commented: “This Innovate UK grant provides endorsement of our flu vaccine programme and reinforces our belief that an innovative approach, using the very latest technologies, could help protect the public from this inevitable epidemic or pandemic health threat.”

The UK government risk register has identified pandemic flu as one of one of the most severe natural challenges likely to affect the UK in the next few years.1 A recent World Health Organization model predicts that pandemic flu could kill an estimated 720,000 people per year and result in economic losses of more than $500 billion.2

The company’s vaccine is 100% synthetic and delivers highly conserved immunogenic peptide fragments from the flu virus to antigen presenting cells in the skin, eliciting a strong and long-lasting T-cell immune response.

References

  1. UK National Risk Register www.scribd.com/document/4746228/UK-National-Risk-Register
  2. How large are the expected losses? Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2018;96:129-134. doi: www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/96/2/17-199588/en/

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