Add a new contender to the list of companies aspiring to develop an effective respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine and nab a share of a potential multibillion-dollar market: Codagenix.
The company just secured $3 million in funding from both public and private sources to advance its live-attenuated candidate, developed in collaboration with the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, through phase 1, according to company COO J. Robert Coleman.
Half of that $3 million comes from the government’s Small Business Innovation Research program to support preclinical manufacturing of the shot. The other $1.5 million, provided by TopSpin Partners, will be specifically channeled to a phase 1 trial in older adults to test the vaccine’s safety and immunogenicity. The venture capital firm has previously invested $4 million in two batches—in 2015 and 2016—into the Farmingdale, New York-based biotech.
Codagenix's candidate is built around the company's proprietary technology called synthetic attenuated virus engineering. The idea is to utilize computer-based rational design that “recodes” portions of the virulent RSV genome to achieve attenuation.
Two vaccine experts, Novavax and Bavarian Nordic, are currently leading RSV vaccine research. After Novavax's shot failed a large phase 3 trial, the company recently touted what it saw as positive phase 2 retrial data. That study suggested the shot, when paired with an adjuvant, elicited high immune responses to the virus. BN’s candidate, currently in phase 2, has also shown it can trigger high antibody responses.
Novavax’s shot is a recombinant candidate optimized for the virus’s F-protein antigen expression, and Bavarian Nordic’s version is based on the company’s Modified Vaccinia Ankara vector. But according to Codagenix CSO Steffen Mueller, his company believes that “only a live vaccine will work to protect against RSV.”
“The elderlies have significant amounts of RSV-specific antibodies but still get sick. Why? Because they lack RSV-specific T cells to protect them—these type of protective T cells can best be engendered via a live vaccine,” he said in a statement.
JLABS resident Meissa Vaccines is also developing a live-attenuated version, but its target population for now is infants.
Codagenix is currently aiming to start a phase 1 study of its RSV vaccine in the second half of 2018. Its flu vaccine candidate, currently the farthest along in its pipeline, will complete phase 1 in the first quarter of 2018, according to Coleman. Several other projects, including Zika and dengue, are in preclinical stages.