Ondek, the Australian biotechnology company founded by Nobel Laureate Professor Barry Marshall, is seeking to develop a new immunotherapy based on the bacterium Helicobacter pylori
Ondek has patented a killed derivative of Helicobacter pylori to be developed as a natural and safe immunotherapy named ImmBALANCE.
The first target indication for ImmBALANCE is childhood eczema, because the researchers believe the product is likely to be most effective during development of the immune system.
ImmBALANCE will also be tested against existing allergies and other chronic inflammatory diseases in adults.
Ondek has raised AUD$3.59 million in equity funding from professional and high net worth investors to develop a new treatment for childhood allergies.
Ondek’s business strategy is to develop its first product through to clinical proof of concept, before partnering with a global pharmaceutical firm with the capacity to complete clinical development and take the product to international markets.
Peter Hammond, Chairman at Ondek, said: “Over the last few decades, there has been a dramatic rise in the prevalence of allergic diseases. According to the World Allergy Organisation, an estimated 30% to 40% of the global population suffered from some form of allergic condition in 2011".
Ondek was founded in 2005 by Professor Barry Marshall, a world authority on the H. pylori bacterium, and co-recipient with Dr Robin Warren of the 2005 Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology for the discovery that chronic H. pylori infection can trigger the development of stomach ulcers.
Their work revolutionised the medical management of stomach ulcers and helped to generate a cure.
Ondek is using Professor Marshall’s Nobel-prize winning insights to develop a patented H. pylori based drug to be used to rebalance the human immune system and improve the treatment of common allergies.
The main ingredient of the new compound harnesses the unique immune modulatory properties of the bacteria that naturally reside in the human gut.
Professor Marshall said: “The wider medical community is recognising the important role of the microbiome in regulating the immune system. H. pylori is a unique member of the natural gut microbiome and has a potent immune regulatory function. I am very excited to be able to exploit this natural immune modulatory trait of H. pylori to shape the potential of future treatments for allergy”.
The allergy epidemic has been linked to increased hygiene and reduced exposure to microorganisms in childhood. Independent studies have shown an inverse correlation between the presence of H. pylori and the incidence of allergic disorders such as eczema and asthma.
Recent studies have demonstrated the risk of developing an allergy is reduced in the presence of an H. pylori infection. There is currently no cure and limited treatments available for allergic disorders, particularly in children.
Around half of the world's population is infected with H. pylori bacteria, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The bacterium survives in the human stomach by modulating the host’s immune system.
While 10% of people with long term infection will develop an ulcer and have an increased risk of stomach cancer, the vast majority of people carry the bug without developing any symptoms. Moreover, the presence of H. pylori it appears to be beneficial for the development of a healthy immune system.
Ondek is harnessing the natural immune modulatory activity of H. pylori to develop a product that will down regulate hypersensitive allergic responses. Professor Marshall and his team believe that the new therapy will have greatest impact when used during infancy and childhood, and possibly have broader application as a treatment for other chronic inflammatory diseases.
The target indication for ImmBALANCE is childhood eczema, but will initially be tested in adults for efficacy in allergic and inflammatory diseases.