Ziphius Vaccines and University of Antwerp to work on RNA-based delivery methods

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Belgian biopharma firm Ziphius Vaccines is set to collaborate with the University of Antwerp to research and develop a lipid library for optimized delivery systems of self-amplifying RNA-based drugs (saRNA) and therapeutics.

Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines deliver genetic instructions to cells to create proteins that then train the immune system against a pathogen, such as a virus. The saRNA technology builds on this concept, allowing the cells to not only manufacture the proteins but also replicate the instructions and amplify the vaccine’s effect. This means companies need to manufacture, transport, and store much lower doses of genetic material, perhaps even 100 times less for each injection. 

The safe and effective delivery of nucleic acids into the cell is one of the biggest challenges for the development and production of mRNA-based drugs. 

Ziphius said its delivery platform employs lipid nanoparticle (LNP) technology to design saRNA carriers that ensure proper encapsulation, stability, and biodegradability of the LNP-saRNA complex.

Koen Augustyns, dean of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences University of Antwerp, said: “Everyone got to know about mRNA vaccines during the COVID-19 crisis. In future, we expect a lot from saRNA vaccines, their successors. Different researchers of the University of Antwerp have extensive expertise in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases.

“We are pleased that we can now pool our knowledge with Ziphius. In some cases, one plus one equals three: that is certainly the case when it comes to this collaboration.”

Chris Cardon, CEO of Ziphius Vaccines, said: “Efficient delivery of saRNA to the cells is a major limiting factor for the development and production of RNA based vaccines. With this collaboration agreement with the University of Antwerp we will be leveraging the expertise and the innovative skills in organic and medicinal chemistry to continue to invest in the further optimization of our proprietary delivery platform.”

Ziphius Vaccines’ lead compound, ZIP1642, is a COVID-19 vaccine candidate that is currently being evaluated in preclinical studies. The Ghent-based company also has a portfolio of next generation vaccine candidates targeting infectious diseases and gene supplementation therapies. 

The mRNA and saRNA space is expanding: Earlier this year, U.S. saRNA developer Chimeron Bio announced it had entered into a manufacturing agreement with FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies (FDB). FDB develops and manufactures recombinant biopharmaceuticals and viral gene therapies. 

And last year, a Yale researcher partnered with pharmaceutical company Novartis to develop a saRNA vaccine to protect against the malaria parasite.

Cover image: Shutterstock

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