Oxford Spin-out promises inexpensive vaccines for cancer and viral infections


Source: ISIS Innovations

A spin-out from the University of Oxford, Oxford Vacmedix, will commercialise a new technology with the potential to reduce the cost of vaccine development significantly and increase the effectiveness of vaccines in providing immunity against both infectious diseases and cancer.  The technology makes use of techniques that have already produced effective vaccines under laboratory conditions.

The key to the technology lies in manufacturing new ‘overlapping peptide’ vaccines using a natural expression system. A team from the University of Oxford, Department of Oncology and the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine led by Dr Shisong Jiang is responsible for the promising technology.  Describing the advantages of their work, Dr. Jiang said: “The present way of making overlapping peptides is to chemically synthesize all the peptides. The use of the peptide synthesizer, and the limited quantity of peptides produced in this way, made the overlapping peptides very expensive to produce.”

“In contrast, our new method of making overlapping peptides in a bacterial system will allow us to obtain the recombinant protein and then the overlapping peptides endlessly. It is a great improvement compared with the previous method.”

“There are two clear advantages to this approach to developing new vaccines. Firstly, we expect that this technique will allow us to design an effective vaccine much more quickly than using standard vaccine development methods. Secondly, these vaccines can be made using recombinant techniques, potentially a thousand times cheaper than the current solid-phase synthesis processes used to manufacture similar vaccines.”

OVM has already crossed international boundaries to access a wider range of commercialisation opportunities.  As a key part of its business plan, OVM UK has formed a joint venture in Hong Kong with Chinese investors.  This collaboration will enable the majority of the early stage validation of the Oxford technology to be undertaken at the newly established science and technology centre, Changzhou Bioincubation Centre, Xinbei District, Changzhou, supported by Chinese private investment and government funding.  The spin-out holds the exclusive licence to the intellectual property currently owned and managed by Isis Innovation Ltd, the University of Oxford’s research commercialisation company.  The support from Changzhou City government includes laboratory space in a new science business incubation centre managed by Isis and additional funding for key workers.

The joint venture, Oxford Vacmedix HK, will take an exclusive licence to four disease indications, for greater China from Oxford Vacmedix UK and the initial focus of the technology development will be on these.  Oxford Vacmedix HK will be eligible to access up to 2 million RMB in funding from Changzhou Government.

Tom Hockaday, MD of Isis Innovation, said: “We saw the potential of Dr. Jiang’s work and supported it using funds managed by Isis to develop the research to the point of being industrially relevant.  As the vaccine technology receives the international recognition it deserves, having an Isis base in China has been vital in facilitating the joint venture. Oxford Vacmedix is now best placed to enter markets where a cost effective solution will mean accessibility to those who are most vulnerable.”

Oxford Vacmedix will use the investment to prepare the technology for application initially in two infectious diseases, tuberculosis and HPV, followed by other infectious diseases and as a cancer vaccine against Survivin, a protein implicated in cancer.  The company will prepare a technical dossier and drug master file, aiming to establish partnerships or licenses for further development of these vaccines in China.

The CEO and investor, Dr Hong Hoi Ting, who will be leading the business and technology validation said: “We are extremely excited about the opportunity to commercially develop this Oxford technology in a region where its potential impact on healthcare is huge.  This business allows us to continue building links between Oxford and China, taking advantage of the best of both and to realise the commercial potential in the technology.”

Another partner in the Oxford Vacmedix joint venture is RTC Innovation, a Birmingham based firm that commercialises early stage technology, specialising in international partnerships. Dr Jian Cao, the Director of RTC Innovation said: “From the onset we have been keen to work with Isis to promote the importance of recombinant overlapping peptide technology. Now, as the company is spun out, we are very happy to be a partner and look forward to developing this technology into vaccines.