vaccine parenteral vialProkarium has announced the award of funding from the UK and Mexican governments to develop three new vaccines against Zika, bacterial diarrhoea and plague. The most advanced of these vaccines is for the prevention of plague and the new funding will enable the company to conduct a Phase I clinical study starting in 2017.

Although it is now a rare disease, plague bacteria are easily cultured and could be made into an aerosol for bioterrorism with less difficulty than for other disease-causing organisms. The challenge for governments is to have access to a ready stockpile of vaccines at short notice. As Prokarium’s new vaccine is stable at 4 °C for more than 3 years and will be delivered orally, it is ideal as a reserve and for urgent distribution to the general population.

Following a successful preclinical programme, Prokarium, with contractors DSTL and Biokinetic Europe, will start a very rapid bench-to-clinical study to demonstrate the safety and immune response of the vaccine in humans. The goal is to produce an oral vaccine that is easy to administer, highly effective and stable for long periods in storage. The project will also serve as a clinical proof-of-concept for Prokarium’s Vaxonella platform, which promises to speed up the development of oral, thermostable vaccines in general.

Prokarium’s CEO Ted Fjällman commented: “We’re delighted to be recognized by some of the brightest minds in vaccine research and to receive contracts from both the UK and Mexican governments. It gives us another chance to demonstrate the wide applicability of our Vaxonella platform, which is a strong stimulator of all arms of immunity and reduces the cost and time of vaccine R&D and manufacture.”

Steve Chatfield, Chairman of Prokarium, added: “Our technology provides the means to rapidly develop and manufacture oral vaccines for emerging diseases and potential bioterrorist threats. All of our operations are based in the UK, enabling us to play our part in fulfilling the government’s aim of strengthening the UK’s vaccine manufacturing capability so that it can be deployed rapidly in the face of emerging disease threats. We’re well placed to take advantage of any further funding opportunities and to work with other governments and international organizations.”

The new government contracts will last up to 2 years and will also enable further development of Prokarium’s vaccines for the Zika virus as well as bacterial diarrhoea and enteric fever. The £1 million in funding for the plague vaccine comes from an initial SBRI programme, run by Innovate UK, tapping into the pledge of £120 million to the UK Vaccine Network by the UK Government, aiming to increase national resilience to new and emerging global health threats.