UK synthetic biology firm Prokarium has raised $10 million from Saudi, Swedish and Korean investors in an investment round to fund its development of thermostable vaccines. The money will go towards the clinical development of vaccines against chlamydia, C.difficile and enteric fever (typhoid and paratyphoid) and the expansion of Prokarium’s team for R&D in immuno-oncology. Investors include Riyadh Valley Company (RVC), Flerie Invest, and Korea Investment Partners.
Prokarium will use the funding to develop its oral thermostable vaccine delivery platform Vaxonella. The platform triggers mucosal and cellular immunity and causes the body’s own immune cells to produce vaccines. According to Prokarium, Vaxonella has many technical advantages over current injectable vaccines and facilitates ‘the tackling of hitherto difficult-to-prevent diseases’.
According to the company, the platform has minimal side effects, is less expensive than injectable vaccines and allows increased access to vaccines in underserved and remote locations. Additionally, Prokarium has hailed the platform’s 12-week thermostability at 40°C as a ‘game changer’.
Health professionals currently face the problem of vaccines becoming ineffective or even dangerous due to issues in their transportation and storage. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that nearly 50% of lyophilised (freeze-dried) and 25% of liquid vaccines are wasted each year, predominantly due to disruptions in the cold chain.
Failures in vaccines add to their overall cost, limit their availability and can prove hazardous to public safety. Thermostable vaccines offer an attractive solution to these problems as they can withstand fluctuating temperatures in storage or shipment and, once commercialised, can increase vaccine safety, efficacy and access.
“The global vaccine market is worth over $35 billion… yet many countries still do not make full use of the healthcare savings that preventative medicine like vaccines can bring.” RVC CEO Dr Khalid Al-Saleh said.
“Prokarium’s team have developed a unique technology that can solve many issues with vaccine efficacy and delivery. We believe their expertise in synthetic biology, coupled with the need for easily accessible childhood vaccines in emerging markets and the growing adult vaccine market globally, will allow Prokarium to expand into many new areas in the coming years.”
Prokarium has said some of the money received will go towards adding a new head of immuno-oncology research and a VP of business development. The company also has plans to grow by partnering with global biopharmaceutical companies to maximise the reach and potential of its products and vector technology platform.