GlycoVaxyn secures CHF5.1m from Wellcome Trust to develop Shigella vaccine

Clinical trials are scheduled to start in the US in 2014

GlycoVaxyn, a Swiss developer of bio-conjugate vaccines, has secured a Strategic Translation Award of CHF5.1m (€4.1m; US$5.5m) from the Wellcome Trust to finance its Shigella programme.

The award will fund the Schlieren-based firm’s studies in healthy adults to confirm the effectiveness of a monovalent Shigella flexneri 2a vaccine, before testing a multivalent vaccine in field studies in children. The firm says clinical trials are scheduled to start in 2014 in the US.

Shigella is one of the main causes of a diarrhoeal disease that causes illness and death among young children in low-income countries. Various serotypes of this Gram-negative bacterium are responsible for the diarrhoea and, with regional differences in serotype distribution, up to six serotypes need to be included in a vaccine to provide broad protection and prevent Shigellosis worldwide.

GlycoVaxyn’s in vivo glycosylation technology enables a complex multivalent Shigella vaccine to be developed for the first time. Complexes of the antigenic surface polysaccharides and proteins can now be directly synthesised in genetically engineered bacterial cells. This multivalent Shigella bioconjugate vaccine can be manufactured at low costs, compared with conjugate vaccines that are chemically produced.

‘An estimated 1.1 million people die from Shigella infections each year, mostly children under the age of five living in low income countries,’ said Richard Seabrook, Head of Business Development at the Wellcome Trust. ‘With rising antibiotic resistance limiting our treatment options, we urgently need an affordable vaccine that will provide broad protection against the many strains of Shigella bacteria that cause disease.’

Michael Wacker, Chief Scientific Officer of GlycoVaxyn, added: ‘GlycoVaxyn has previously conducted a Phase 1 study in healthy volunteers on a single serotype Shigella conjugate vaccine. This collaboration will enable us to investigate a new vaccine against a different single serotype, moving this important programme forward towards a broad acting vaccine that protects against multiple serotypes.’

Besides Shigella, GlycoVaxyn’s portfolio includes preclinical programmes targeting major infectious diseases such as Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae.

GlycoVaxyn is funded by private investors including Sofinnova Partners, Index Ventures and Edmond de Rothschild Investment Partners and recently entered collaborations with GSK and Janssen Pharmaceuticals.