The use of vaccines for the prevention and control of diseases is well established and is becoming increasingly important.
In an ever more global world, where the risk of a disease being spread by travellers is high, vaccines have tremendous future growth potential in combating infectious as well as a range of chronic human diseases. However, fast growing demands (especially from emerging markets), health threats from complex viral and bacterial pathogens and increasingly stringent requirements for stability, safety and tolerability create new challenges for vaccine manufacturers and developers. This is where Virometix, a privately held Swiss biotechnology company, aims to have a major impact with its unique and innovative SVLP and SAM platform technologies.
The Virometix technology platform offers a wide range of product opportunities in the area of prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines.
Virometix strives to establish the SVLP technology as a new benchmark for in the design of high added value vaccines for infectious, respiratory and oncological diseases. Virometix is developing a portfolio of preclinical candidates for a first-in-class vaccine for Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), two broad-spectrum next-generation vaccines for HPV / cervical cancer and for S. pneumoniae diseases as well as vaccines for the treatment of cancers. Each of these vaccine candidates addresses diseases that affect millions of people worldwide and cause lead to a significant economic burden. Potential peak sales for each of these vaccines are estimated to top 1 billion Swiss francs. Virometix is open to discussing collaborations and partnering opportunities in these areas. Although Virometix’ development efforts focus mainly on the development of vaccines, the company also offers technology partnering and R&D collaborations in other possible application areas of the technology, such as targeted drug delivery and formulation.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a seasonal respiratory virus that infects the lungs and breathing passages. It can spread via droplets sneezed or coughed into the air by an infected person. Otherwise healthy individuals infected with the virus typically recover within one to two weeks. However, RSV can cause severe lower respiratory tract illness (LRI) and other illnesses in newborns, small children, older adults and immunocompromised persons. RSV is very common: most children experience at least one infection in the first two years of life and about 5% of the older population become infected every year. A drug called Palivizumab is used for the prevention of severe illness in certain children who are at high risk. It is not effective in curing children already suffering from disease. Currently there is no vaccine available.
Cervical cancer is the fourth most deadly cancer in women worldwide. It is caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in many parts of the world. There are more than 40 HPV types that can infect the male and female genital region, mouth and throat. Fifteen types can cause squamous intraepithelial lesions in the cervix leading to cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) and eventually to cervical cancer. Presently two vaccines are available that can prevent infection with two common types, HPV16 and HPV18. Together the two types account for approximately 70% of cervical cancer. The vaccines are given to teenage girls and also to boys in some countries. With its second-generation vaccine Virometix aims to target a broader range of cancer-causing HPV types and also to avoid side reactions associated with the currently available HPV vaccines. The vaccine is being developed in collaboration with the German Cancer Research Center.
Streptococcus pneumoniae (‘Pneumococcus’) is an important upper respiratory tract pathogen. So far more than ninety different serotypes have been identified, differing in their polysaccharide-capsule. Pneumococci are the main cause of community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) and can also cause a number of other life-threatening diseases including sepsis and meningitis. According to the WHO they constitute a major health problem worldwide, causing more deaths than any other vaccine-preventable disease. Available vaccines cover only a small number of serotypes, thereby preventing 50–80% of disease, depending on the geographic location and age of the persons to whom it is given. Virometix’ next-generation vaccine will cover a broader range of pneumococcal serotypes. The vaccine is being developed in collaboration with the University of Zurich and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute.
Cancer constitutes a tremendous unmet medical need and a significant opportunity for therapeutic vaccines that could be used to complement other treatments. Cancer vaccines work by eliciting an immune response against cancer antigens, using the same mechanisms that normally fight viral or bacterial infections. Virometix believes that its SVLP platform is very well suited to achieve this goal, especially because SVLPs interact highly efficiently with a special type of cells called dendritic cells. These cells are thought to play a pivotal role in the generation and maintenance of immune responses against cancer.