Oral vaccine consortium ‘uniquely placed’ to target a wide range of pathogens

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Oral drug delivery Vaccines

EncOVac, a consortium led by Poolbeg Pharma, has been awarded €2.3m ($2.37m) in non-dilutive grant funding to progress its Oral Vaccine Platform under the Irish Government’s Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund (‘DTIF’).

The collaboration between Poolbeg Pharma, University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin and AnaBio Technologies will develop an oral vaccine candidate through to a Phase I ready state over the next three years. The resulting technology is expected to serve as a platform for additional oral vaccine candidates for a wide range of pathogens, initially targeting bacterial infections.

Prof Ed Lavelle, Professor of Immunology at Trinity College Dublin (“TCD”) said: “The pharmaceutical industry has long aspired to develop subunit oral vaccines and I believe we have assembled a consortium of experts and ground-breaking technologies that are uniquely placed to make them a reality.”

Microencapsulation and nanoencapsulation tech

Good oral vaccine approaches are highly sought after as they have the potential to offer several advantages: ranging from enhanced immunity to increased uptake. But developing vaccine formulations that can survive the gastrointestinal environment has proved to be a key challenge.  

Oral vaccines have been used successfully – but with limited scope – against diseases such as polio and typhoid. The consortium’s hope is that it can ultimately create oral vaccines for a much wider portfolio. 

In January, Poolbeg licensed AnaBio’s microencapsulation and nanoencapsulation technologies for use in the development and commercialization of oral vaccines.

Ireland’s AnaBio Technologies is a specialist microencapsulation company, focused micro-encapsulation of sensitive bioactive ingredients for food, beverage and pharmaceutical applications. 

Founded in 2011 by Dr Sinead Bleiel, it now has 15 patent families and clients across North America, Asia, and the EU.

Bioactives and APIs are vulnerable to being inactivated by environmental stresses encountered during processing, storage and digestion. This can result in limited quantities of intact active bioactives reaching the site of action in the body, and no health benefit.

Microencapsulation represents a ‘sophisticated delivery system’ designed to overcome this problem. A protective coat is created at microscopic level around the bioactive or API which protects the ingredient from a wide range of environmental conditions, enables its release at the appropriate site within the body, and thereby ensures that the potential health benefits of the bioactive are fully realised.

By delivering vaccines to the gut, it believes oral vaccines can trigger ‘mucosal immunity’ that results in a protective response in the areas of the body where a pathogen would be inhaled or ingested such as the nose and digestive tracts.

In comparison to intramuscular injections which generate systemic immunity, this approach prevents infections from taking hold in the body by counteracting them at the point of entry. This has the effect of both reducing transmission and preventing serious disease.

Oral vaccines also offer an efficient method of administration (for example, without the need of a trained healthcare professional) and significantly reduce challenges for distribution, addressing the gaps in supplying the global community as well as needle-phobia which factors in vaccine hesitancy.

Jeremy Skillington, PhD, CEO of Poolbeg Pharma said: “We are grateful for the support of the Irish Government in awarding this funding and delighted to be working with our consortium of high-quality partners in University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin and AnaBio.

"The funding will support the progression of this exciting oral vaccine platform that has the potential to improve the ways vaccines are manufactured, distributed and administered for the future.

"Poolbeg continues to target non-dilutive funding opportunities and we are delighted that this DTIF award is our first success.”

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