British company Prokarium has raised $10 million from investors in Saudi Arabia, Sweden and South Korea to advance its vaccine programs based on its novel synthetic biology platform.
The new funds will allow Prokarium to develop its vaccines against chlamydia, C. difficile and enteric fever, and will also help expand its scientific team to work on cancer vaccines.
All of these projects are based on Prokarium’s platform called Vaxonella. It uses attenuated strains of Salmonella enterica acquired from Emergent BioSolutions as vectors to express antigens. After taken by mouth, such vaccines pass through the stomach and reach the lymphatic system to stimulate humoral and cellular immune responses.
Unlike most vaccines that require refrigeration to stay effective, Prokarium’s oral vaccines developed from the platform can remain stable at 40°C (104°F) for up to 12 weeks. This means cheaper and easier transportation of the vaccines, as well as improved access to remote, less resourceful regions.
The company’s lead candidate is a typhoid vaccine that has been developed to phase 2, and the company is also combining typhoid and paratyphoid in one product currently at the preclinical stage.
Its pipeline also includes a vaccine against plague, which will enter human testing under a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) contract funded by the U.K. government and managed by Innovate UK. Prokarium said the candidate will be used for biodefense and epidemic preparedness.
“We look forward to generating the clinical data for our current vaccines and working with our investors to find new opportunities to partner our technologies globally,” said Prokarium’s CEO Ted Fjallman, in a statement.
Besides its current infectious disease portfolio, Prokarium is also looking to apply the platform in new immuno-oncology programs, focusing on solid tumors that are not amenable to other approaches.
The financing round was led by Riyadh Valley Company, the venture capital arm of King Saud University. Sweden’s Flerie Invest and South Korea’s largest venture capital firm, Korea Investment Partners, also participated.
Other companies also working on oral, thermostable vaccines include U.S. company Vaxart, which just completed its merger with Aviragen Therapeutics. Different from the Prokarium’s synthetic approach, Vaxart’s vector-adjuvant platform delivers actual antigen proteins. The company’s candidates against influenza and norovirus are in mid-stage testings.