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Oral vaccine breakthrough

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Tuesday 14 May 2013 11:43am

Imagine looking forward to your forthcoming vaccination appointment with a novel question on your mind… will it be chocolate or strawberrry flavoured, perhaps coconut?

Immune Solutions Ltd, a spin-out company formed by Otago Innovation Ltd, the University of Otago’s commercial arm, has developed a world-leading oral delivery method for vaccines and bioactives for commercial use.

Otago Innovation CEO Colin Dawson, who also chairs Immune Solutions, explains: “There is great potential for oral vaccines in a number of disease areas, especially in developing countries as it makes vaccination delivery easier, less reliant on refrigeration and, of course, no needles! Almost all vaccines today are given by injection and, until now, the possibility of one day just taking a pill has been a long way off.

“Broadly speaking, there are two types of immunity that work together to keep us healthy. One that provides us with antibodies in our bloodstream and one that, importantly, gives us mucosal surface immunity. The concept of Liporale™ is simple. By delivering the vaccine to the gut, it is possible to generate better immunity at the mucosal surfaces – such as lung and bowel – which is the route of entry for many disease-causing microbes.”

By enabling vaccines to be delivered directly to the gut, Liporale™ offers the potential for significantly bettter immunity against diseases.

The Liporale™ oral delivery system encapsulates vaccines and bio-actives in a lipid, protecting them from the harsh acidic environment of the stomach and allowing bypass through to the small intestine where they can be optimally absorbed. The problem with oral delivery systems in the past has been that vaccines would get broken into small fragments in the stomach which are then not recognised by the immune system. Liporale™ overcomes that problem.

“We are currently expanding our horizons to solve vaccine challenges in fish, sheep and human viral diseases,” says Dawson, “although our main focus remains in the tuberculosis (TB) area for animals and humans.

“We have provided vaccines to the Irish and British governments for ongoing trials in badgers which are a carrier of TB that spills over to affect cattle. We are also fortunate to have the expertise and guidance of the Aeras Foundation, a Washington DC-based organisation that funds and co-ordinates global human TB vaccine development.”

Aeras has funding and industry partners throughout the world and, at this time, Immune Solutions is their sole Southern Hemisphere industry partner. “Their expert guidance and feedback has been invaluable to us during the development of our TB vaccine delivery system.”

The development could have significant impact worldwide for patients with TB. 
TB infects 9.4 million people annually and five to 10 per cent of infected individuals will go on to develop active contagious disease causing significant debility or death. Whilst the existing BCG vaccination is effective in preventing neonatal TB for the first 10 to 15 years of life, the vaccine appears to provide little protection against pulmonary TB in adolescents and adults. Liporale™TB may provide just the right alternative given that it has been found to elicit a stronger immune response at the mucosal surfaces in the lung in animal trials.

The technology was initially developed through the collaborative efforts of the University of Otago, the Animal Health Board and AgResearch. Dr Frank Aldwell, chief scientific officer at Immune Solutions, guides the ongoing vaccine development process. The company now holds patents that have been granted in seven countries, including the United States.