Vicebio Ltd (“Vicebio”), a biopharmaceutical company founded by medicxi in 2019, today announced the launch to accelerate the development of novel vaccines against life-threatening respiratory viral infections using its novel Molecular Clamp technology platform.
This technology has been developed by Prof Paul Young, Dr. Daniel Watterson, and Dr. Keith Chappell and their groups at The University of Queensland (UQ), Brisbane, Australia and licensed to Vicebio by UniQuest, the commercialization company of UQ. Medicxi has so far committed €18M to progress this technology into the clinic. Dr. Emmanuel Hanon, the former Head of Vaccines R&D at GSK, has been appointed as Chief Executive Officer.
A vaccine’s efficacy relies on its ability to stimulate the immune system with antigens in the correct conformation. Producing these proteins in such a conformation, in a form that allows long-term storage and convenient administration, remains a major challenge. Vicebio is advancing its proprietary, second-generation Molecular Clamp technology capable of stabilizing viral glycoproteins in “prefusion” conformation, to deliver highly protective and ready-to-use fully liquid vaccines. The Molecular Clamp technology is a patented 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 (Chappell et al., Lancet Infect Dis. 2021).
Vicebio is progressing its RSV vaccine candidate (VXB-211) through preclinical and development activities with the objective to start 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.
Dr. Emmanuel Hanon, Chief Executive Officer of Vicebio, 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.”
Dr. 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 in 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.”
The Vicebio team has extensive experience in the research & development of innovative vaccines and has launched several commercially successful products using novel platform technologies. Dr. Emmanuel Hanon spent 20 years at GSK and was global head of R&D at GSK Vaccines. A virologist and immunologist by training, he made critical contributions to next-generation adjuvants and their inclusion in successful vaccines for pandemic influenza, malaria, and shingles.
Expanding a world-class team, Emmanuel is joined by UQ’s Dr. Keith Chappell as lead scientific advisor. Keith is an expert in structural vaccinology and one of the inventors of the Molecular Clamp technology. Two former GSK Vaccines Executives have joined Vicebio: Dr Giovanni Della Cioppa as Chief Medical Officer and Dr. Jean Smal as Chief Technology Officer. Giovanni is an experienced R&D leader who led the clinical development of highly successful meningitis and influenza vaccines. Jean has global experience in vaccine R&D and manufacturing and contributed to the technical development of several highly successful vaccines as well as an adjuvant system technology platform.
Dr. Dean Moss, Chief Executive Officer of UniQuest, said: “This transformative UQ technology patented by UniQuest is a platform approach to develop vaccines for 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 with significant investment from medicxi to build a pipeline of vaccines for commercially relevant respiratory viral infections.”