28 June 2017

New Company at the University of Copenhagen Banks on Development of Extremely Effective Vaccines


Vaccine researchers from the University of Copenhagen have just founded a company by the name of “AdaptVac Aps” for the development of new, improved vaccines for the treatment of a number of serious diseases, including breast cancer. The company is a joint venture with the Danish biotech company ExpreS2ion Biotechnologies ApS with a view to commercial development.

The company NextGen Vaccines Aps, which is founded by researchers from the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, has developed a patented technology that enables the development of an entirely new class of vaccines. The method may be used broadly for effective treatment of both serious infectious diseases (e.g. Zika Virus, Human Papillomavirus and Malaria) and non-contagious diseases, including cancer and allergy. Now, the company has established a joint venture company by the name of AdaptVac Aps with the Hørsholm company ExpreS2ion Biotechnologies Aps, specialising in the production of antigens for use in vaccines.

‘Combining our research, clinical development experience and technology with ExpreS2ion's expertise within antigen production and their business skills, we have a commercial platform from which we will supply unique vaccines for treatment of a number of serious diseases’, says Associate Professor Morten A. Nielsen from the Department of Immunology and Microbiology.

At the University of Copenhagen the optimism about the new company is strong as well.

’I am very confident that in the long term this new cooperation will contribute to the Innovation Portfolio of the University of Copenhagen’, says Vice-Dean for Innovation and External Relations Trine Winterø.

Pioneering Vaccine Technique
The foundation for the company is research conducted at the Department of Immunology and Microbiology at the University of Copenhagen. One year ago, the vaccine researchers published a study that documented years of research with their entirely new virus-like vaccine technique. The researchers' new method makes it possible to e.g. present important cancer antigens in a way where they adopt the form of a foreign virus. Normally, a cancer tumour is treated by injecting artificially produced antibodies. Contrary to this, with the new technology you cheat the body to form natural antibodies that can fight the tumour. This produces a more effective result and fewer side effects - and it is cheaper.

One of the problems with e.g. breast cancer is that the disease is constituted of the body's own cells. Thus, the body's immune system does not see anything 'foreign' that it must eradicate. When the cancer associated antigen is added to a virus particle, the body will identify it due to the virus-like structure as something dangerous that must be eradicated and will begin producing antibodies to the antigens present in the vaccine - thus attacking the cancerous tumour. 

Vaccines in the pipeline
The new vaccine technology has many applications and the interaction with ExpreS2ion's competencies within production of vaccine antigens makes it possible to develop vaccines against a wide range of diseases.

‘Right now there are vaccines in the pipeline against cancer, inflammatory diseases, Zika and Malaria, but at the same time we are open to new collaborations’, explains Associate Professor Adam Sander, who has headed the research group at the University of Copenhagen.

The company already has a prototype ready for a vaccine against breast cancer which has proven safe and effective in highly advanced breast cancer animal models. The next step is the clinical tests, but because the vaccine has been tested on humans - although in a slightly different form - the company is confident it will do well.

The merger with ExpreS2ion Biotechnologies makes it possible to raise capital for clinical development. Between the two spearheading projects alone, we talk about a potential value in the two- to three-digit million range if they enter the market. The typical breast cancer treatment based on antibodies is dominated by HERCEPTIN (Trastuzumab) with an annual turnover of more than US $ 7 billion.

‘Our patented technology opens a new door for development of highly effective vaccines, and the partnership with ExpreS2ion Biotechnologies, which has expertise within the production of vaccine antigens, provides a unique opportunity to rapidly achieve the goal of developing new and better vaccines’, explains Professor Ali Salanti.

Funding: The researchers behind the technology have obtained support from the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation through a Eurostars grant for production of combined vaccines against Zika virus, Human Papillomavirus and Placental Malaria and from the Danish Council for Independent Research to conduct research into vaccines against childhood malaria and cancer.

About the Department of Immunology and Microbiology (ISIM): The department is internationally oriented with research activities within Immunology, Virology, Parasitology and Bacteriology. ISIM's main activities take place in Copenhagen at the Panum Institute and in the Maersk Tower, but researchers have extensive collaboration in the EU, Singapore, Tanzania, South Africa, Ghana and the United States. 250 employees from 30 countries are affiliated with the Department in Denmark and globally. The research activity at ISIM is based on the fact that the best research will always leave its marks and have an impact, make further development possible and become useful inventions.

About ExpreS2ion Biotechnologies A/S: ExpreS2ion Biotechnologies ApS is a wholly-owned Danish subsidiary of ExpreS2ion Biotech Holding AB, which is listed on the NASDAQ First North Stockholm. ExpreS2ion has developed a unique platform technology, ExpreS2 which enables cost-effective development and robust production of complex proteins for new vaccines and diagnostics for e.g. Malaria and Zika. Since its establishment in 2010, the company has used the patented ExpreS2 platform to produce more than 250 proteins in collaboration with research institutions and biopharmaceutical companies, with a superior efficiency and success rate.

Associate Professor Adam Sander
E-mail: asander@sund.ku.dk
Telephone: (+45) 30111529