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Indian-origin professor's UK firm strikes Covid-19 vaccine deal with India

The firm, SpyBiotech which is led by Prof Sumi Biswas, is an Oxford University spinoff company with a novel vaccine platform to target infectious diseases, cancer and chronic diseases

Serum Institute of India | Coronavirus Vaccine

Press Trust of India  |  London 

oxford, vaccine trials, coronavirus, covid-19
SpyBiotech said it has signed an exclusive global licensing agreement with SIIPL for the development of the vaccine as part of the study initiated in Australia

An Indian-origin professor's Oxford-based company on Tuesday announced that its Indian partner, the (SIIPL), has begun trials of a novel virus-like particle (VLP) vaccine targeting Covid-19 which has the potential to offer a groundbreaking new approach to fighting the pandemic.

Prof Sumi Biswas, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of SpyBiotech – an Oxford University spinoff company with a novel vaccine platform to target infectious diseases, cancer and chronic diseases, said the first subjects have been dosed in a Phase I/II trial.

SpyBiotech said it has signed an exclusive global licensing agreement with SIIPL for the development of the vaccine as part of the study initiated in Australia.

“Combining SpyBiotech's unique platform technology with Serum's extensive expertise developing VLPs and its manufacturing capability is an exciting development at a critical time, giving us the tools to produce the large volume of doses required to support the global fight against Covid-19,” said Biswas, a Kolkata-born immunologist.

“For SpyBiotech, this is an opportunity to provide an accelerated proof point for our platform technology, alongside the other candidates which we are advancing into clinical development. Our technology can be combined with multiple vaccine delivery platforms to create a plug and display vaccine which is critical for generating vaccines rapidly and safely,” she said.

Biswas moved to the UK in 2005 having studied microbiology at the University of Bangalore and went on to become an Associate Professor of Vaccinology at the Jenner Institute, Oxford University's leading vaccines innovation centre which is currently also working on another Covid-19 vaccine candidate.

SpyBiotech says its vaccine candidate uses its “proprietary” SpyCatcher/SpyTag protein “superglue” technology to display the coronavirus spike protein on the surface of Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) VLPs, a licensed vaccine with "excellent safety and immunogenicity data" in humans and which are currently manufactured to billions of doses. The coronavirus spike protein's receptor-binding domain is displayed on the VLP, taking advantage of the platform's properties to induce a potent immune response.

Adar Poonawalla, Chief Executive Officer of SIIPL, said: “We are very excited about the collaboration with SpyBiotech to work on this novel vaccine for Covid-19.

“This new technology has the potential to be a powerful new approach to tackling the pandemic. SIIPL is looking forward to working alongside SpyBiotech to advance this candidate through clinical development.” SpyCatcher/SpyTag is a platform technology which allows antigens to be displayed onto VLPs with a covalent, irreversible bond in a highly stable and effective way with specific orientation/epitope presentation and high density. The technology can be used for an exceptionally broad range of applications in vaccine development and has established proof of concept data in a viral, bacterial, parasitic diseases and chronic diseases and cancer.

SpyBiotech said it has exclusive rights from the University of Oxford to apply, commercialise and sub-license the “plug and display” technology for vaccine development.

“Finding a safe and effective vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 [Covid-19] virus is one of the most pressing scientific challenges of our time,” said Lachlan Mackinnon, Oxford Sciences Innovation Principal and SpyBiotech Chairman.

“Combining the benefits of SpyBiotech's protein ‘superglue' technology with the known safety and immunogenicity of the Serum Institute's Hepatitis B surface antigen virus-like particle offers the potential for an effective, safe Covid-19 vaccine which could be manufactured at scale,” he said.

Through the latest agreement, he said that SpyBiotech's technology can be added to a growing armoury of weapons being developed against this disease.

“We hope the development programme will also help validate the broader potential of the technology, which in the future will be used to target other infectious diseases and cancer,” he added.

SpyBiotech was spun out of the University of Oxford in 2017 and its proprietary protein superglue technology binds antigens to vaccine delivery platforms in a way which minimises delivery risk and enhances immunogenicity and efficacy.

The company said it is supported by high quality investors including Oxford Sciences Innovation (OSI), the capital investor for the University of Oxford, and GV (formerly Google Ventures) and has raised 15 million pounds in funding to date.

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First Published: Tue, September 08 2020. 21:55 IST