US biotech company Vaxxinity has raised the prospect of breakthroughs in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease as a result of unprecedented resources and energy directed at vaccine research since the beginning of the pandemic.
Covid-19 has already resulted in the first approved mRNA-based vaccines and now Vaxxinity is developing a new coronavirus vaccine using synthetic proteins that it says could have wide application.
“Some of the most successful drugs today are biologics, but they are expensive and often inconvenient to use. Our vision is to disrupt that class of drugs with next-generation, next-level vaccines,” Vaxxinity CEO Mi Mi Ho told the newspaper. Financial Times.
Vaxxinity’s Covid-19 vaccine, which is currently undergoing Phase II trials, uses technology that is also being applied to “immunotherapy” vaccines that “train the body to produce its own antibodies against the disease’s internal targets.” It can be used against neurodegenerative conditions as well.
The shot is very similar to the conventional recombinant protein coronavirus vaccines being developed by Sanofi/GSK and Novavax. But instead of growing proteins in large vats, Vaxxinity proteins are made using chemicals.
These so-called synthetic peptides mimic the spike protein, as do other vaccines, but they also mimic other proteins from the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19.
“Covid commercialization means not only proving one aspect, one way of our infectious disease platform, but also being able to develop other programs outside of that technology platform,” Hu said.
Vaxxinity’s Alzheimer’s drug, which it says uses a similar technology, encourages the body to remove malformed proteins called amyloid plaques from the brain, because genetic analysis has linked them to symptoms of the disease. Hu said the completed Phase 2 trial wasn’t large enough to draw statistically valid conclusions, so it’s moving on to a larger study.
Approximately 35 million people suffer from cognitive disease worldwide, and nearly all of the medications that exist to combat the condition treat only its symptoms. The US Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved the first Alzheimer’s disease drug designed to slow the progression of the disease.
Other drug companies have tried to develop similar drugs for Vaxxinity before, but they haven’t worked. An injectable monoclonal antibody treatment developed by Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson was discontinued in 2012 after a small portion of cases developed encephalitis in clinical trials. Vaxxinity said it has addressed this issue and the product is now safe and consistent.
Hu Jintao said the coronavirus has speeded up all of Vaxxinity’s business. We compressed what would have taken much longer in this time of the Covid pandemic. Things that would have taken five years are compressed into 18 months.”
Hu added that the company has expanded its in-house infrastructure to support global clinical trials and is rapidly working to establish a reliable supply chain.
Because the input for the Covid-19 shot, known as UB-612, is relatively cheap and the vaccine does not require deep freezing, the company expects to sell primarily to lower-income countries. However, it says it has also received attention from developed markets, including the European Union. Although the shot hasn’t been approved yet, Vaxxinity has already confirmed demand for 140 million doses, she says.
Carolyn Casey, of scientific analytics firm Airfinity, said Vaxxinity was one of several drug companies, such as US biotech company Moderna, that got a boost from developing Covid-19 vaccines.
“If they are in the process of manufacturing a Covid vaccine and they have some similar vaccines in their pipeline, then manufacturing for one would greatly help in sorting out manufacturing for the others,” she said.
Vaxxinity is a US-based subsidiary of United Biomedical, a Taiwanese pharmaceutical group founded by Wang Chang-yi, Hu’s mother. It is also developing drugs against migraines and hypercholesterolemia, a condition that causes high levels of fats in the blood.
Hu said her team has grown to tackle the pandemic. “As a result, we are in a better position with respect to our other pipelines, including neuroimmune diseases and others,” she said. “It has certainly accelerated the course of the company.”