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Vaccine Developer Gains $11M in Early Funds

Baby with microcephaly

Baby with microcephaly, born to a mother infected with the Zika virus (Agencia Brasil, Wikimedia Commons)

9 Jan. 2020. A company designing vaccines delivered with a microneedle patch to prevent infectious diseases is raising $11 million in its first venture funding round. Emergex Vaccines Holdings Ltd. is a four year-old enterprise in Abingdon, U.K., founded by Thomas Rademacher, formerly a professor of molecular medicine at University College London.

Emergex Vaccines says its vaccine are developed with a technology that invokes the immune system, but avoids the use of antibodies like most other vaccines. The company uses clusters of nanoscale particles made of pathogen peptides, short chains of amino acids, that set the immune system to react if encountering those pathogens. The peptide clusters do not prevent infection, says the company, but the immune response sharply reduces severity of the illness, and still provides long-term protection. Emergex says it has a library of these peptides for a number of infectious diseases including dengue, influenza, Zika, and hepatitis B.

With this technology, says the company, it can produce vaccines without live or disabled biologics, allowing for faster production, no need for adjuvants, and causing fewer adverse reactions. Emergex says its vaccines can also be delivered with a microneedle patch rather than conventional syringes, which are less expensive and can be transported without refrigeration.

Emergex’s lead program is a vaccine for dengue, a viral disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes (not person-to-person) that occurs most frequently in tropical urban regions of the world. The dengue vaccine completed its preclinical tests and is now scheduled for early-stage clinical trials in Switzerland, Singapore, and Brazil. Dengue is a type of flavivirus that includes Zika and yellow fever, and the company’s dengue vaccine may also protect against those other diseases.

Other vaccines in development include a universal flu vaccine, filoviruses including Ebola and Marburg, yellow fever, and Chikungunya virus. Emergex is also working on a vaccine for hand, foot, and mouth disease with the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research in Singapore, and intra-cellular bacterial infections, including tularemia, a disease that infects animals and people, but is also considered a bio-terrorism threat.

The $11 million financing round is led by Vickers Venture Partners in Singapore, a venture capital company that invests in early-stage enterprises. No other investors were identified. Rademacher, now CEO of Emergex, says in a company statement, “These new funds will support us to achieve some significant value-enhancing milestones as we progress our lead vaccine candidates into clinical development.”

Rademacher also founded the company Midatech Ltd. in 2000 that originally developed a nanoparticle technology for vaccines. Emergex gained an exclusive license from Midatech for that technology in 2016.

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