Vicebio Ltd, a biopharmaceutical company founded by Medicxi in 2019, has launched to accelerate the development of novel vaccines against life-threatening respiratory viral infections using its molecular clamp technology platform.
The technology has been developed by Paul Young, Daniel Watterson, Keith Chappell and their groups at The University of Queensland (UQ), Brisbane, Australia. It was licensed to Vicebio by UniQuest, the commercialization company of UQ.
Medicxi has so far committed €18 million ($18.4 million) to progress the technology into the clinic. Emmanuel Hanon, the former head of vaccines R&D at GSK, has been appointed as Vicebio CEO.
Molecular clamp technology
A vaccine’s efficacy relies on its ability to stimulate the immune system with antigens in the correct conformation. Producing these proteins in such conformation, in a form that allows long term storage and convenient administration remains a challenge.
Vicebio is advancing its second-generation molecular clamp technology, which is capable of stabilizing viral glycoproteins in “prefusion”conformation, to deliver protective and ready-to-use fully liquid vaccines.
The technology is a protein tag that effectively stabilizes a wide range of complex viral proteins. It has been applied to generate vaccine candidates for several viruses including SARS-CoV-2, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), metapneumovirus and influenza.
Clinical proof-of-concept has been achieved for SARS-CoV-2 with a previous version of this technology in a Phase 1 study conducted in Australia by UQ.
Vicebio is progressing its RSV vaccine candidate (VXB-211) through preclinical and development activities with the goal of starting a phase 1 proof-of-concept clinical study during the second half of 2023. The ambition is to deliver an RSV vaccine with best-in-class efficacy as a ready-to-use fully liquid formulation. In the future, Vicebio will apply the molecular clamp technology to develop multivalent formulations targeting several respiratory viruses into ready-to-use single shot vaccines.
Hanon said: “I am delighted to join Vicebio as we pursue this novel approach to vaccine development targeting life-threatening respiratory viruses. I am impressed and grateful for the technology development and clinical data already generated by the UQ research team to advance the technology platform and am honored to be taking their invention forward.
“I am truly excited about our molecular clamp technology, which is able to lock viral surface proteins into the optimal conformation with high immunogenicity, stability and manufacturing productivity, all crucial characteristics for vaccines that are difficult to obtain and to combine. With a strong team in place and a clinically-proven technology, Vicebio has the potential to materially improve the options available to patients around the world.”
Giovanni Mariggi, chairman of Vicebio and partner at Medicxi, said: “We are proud of the progress to date and thankful for the fantastic work done by UQ during our collaboration since the creation of Vicebio, allowing us to attract Emmanuel, a highly respected leader in the industry and vaccine development. Medicxi is dedicated to implementing a strategy focused on backing world- leading founders and technologies to deliver meaningful therapies and look forward to supporting Vicebio’s contribution to creating the next-generation of vaccines.”
Hanon is joined by UQ’s Keith Chappell as lead scientific advisor. Two former GSK vaccines executives have joined Vicebio, Giovanni Della Cioppa as chief medical officer and Jean Smal as chief technology officer.
Dean Moss, CEO of UniQuest, said: “This transformative UQ technology patented by UniQuest is a platform approach to develop vaccines to a range of human viruses. We are excited to see Vicebio launched out of stealth in the hands of this experienced team of vaccine leaders and significant investment from Medicxi to build a pipeline of vaccines to commercially relevant respiratory viral infections.”
Medicxi is a healthcare-focused investment company with the mission to create and invest in companies across the full drug development continuum. Leveraging deep expertise in drug development and company creation spanning over two decades, Medicxi invests in early and late-stage therapeutics with a product vision that can fulfill a clear unmet medical need.
UniQuest is the commercialization company of The University of Queensland.
Established in 1984, UniQuest’s commercialization track record includes the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil and start-up companies Spinifex Pharmaceuticals Inc and Inflazome Ltd, which were acquired in two of the largest university start-up exits in Australian history.
UniQuest has also established the Queensland Emory Drug Discovery Initiative (QEDDI), a small molecule drug discovery and development group, dedicated to translating academic biomedical research into drug candidates for partnering.