Actelion pours out $33M to create vaccine startup with Max Planck Society

Switzerland-based Actelion is jumping into the vaccines industry by creating Vaxxilon, a startup that will focus on synthetic carbohydrate vaccines. It has licensed exclusive rights to multiple preclinical vaccines and other technologies from the Max Planck Society and will invest up to €30 million ($33 million), which will come in tranches over three to four years.

Vaxxilon plans to bring its first vaccine to market within three years, Actelion said in a statement. Dr. Peter Seeberger discovered the first preclinical candidates at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, but the companies are staying mum as to which disease those candidates target. Actelion said the technology could be used for therapeutic or preventive vaccines.

Dr. Peter Seeberger

"I believe that the speed and flexibility of a small company, combined with Actelion's financial backing, will allow this novel vaccine technology to progress and eventually be made available to society quickly and efficiently," said Seeberger, director of the Institute for Colloids and Interfaces. "This new class of vaccines promises to be perhaps more efficient, faster and more reproducible to create and manufacture, and has advantages of distribution and administration which may improve access to vaccines around the world."

Carbohydrate conjugate vaccines are made using polysaccharides isolated from bacteria, the company said. Using this technology could speed up the production of novel vaccines and could eliminate the need for a protein carrier and adjuvant.

"Synthetic carbohydrate vaccines represent an exciting opportunity and have great potential," said Dr. Jean-Paul Clozel, CEO of Actelion. "By creating Vaxxilon with the Max Planck Society we are building a platform from which synthetic carbohydrate vaccines could become a commercial reality within the next decade."

Actelion is a leader in the pulmonary arterial hypertension field but has to expand beyond PAH to achieve long-term success, Clozel said in the statement.

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