Poolbeg signs option deal for potential melioidosis vaccine
Clinical-stage infectious disease pharmaceutical company Poolbeg Pharma has signed an option agreement to licence ‘MelioVac’, a vaccine for melioidosis, with University College Dublin and its inventor Siobhán McClean, it announced on Monday, through the university’s intellectual property office NovaUCD.
The AIM-traded firm said it would continue its due diligence on MelioVac - a preclinical asset and recipient of a Wellcome Trust Award to aid its development - as well as of five other potential vaccine candidates discovered by Dr McClean and her team, for the duration of the option agreement, before signing a licence agreement.
Poolbeg said Dr McClean is an associate professor and Head of Biochemistry at the UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science.
She completed her BSc in Biochemistry at UCD, and received her PhD from Imperial College London, with her research focusing on lung infections, which led to the development of a technology platform to identify proteins that bacteria used to attach to human cells.
Those proteins had proved to be “excellent” vaccine candidates, the board said.
Dr McClean completed some of the original research to identify the antigens associated with the melioidosis vaccine at TU Dublin.
Poolbeg said it had identified melioidosis as an infectious disease of interest due to its rising incidence around the world, and because there was currently no approved vaccine available.
Concerns were growing about global warming contributing to the spread of the disease to traditionally non-tropical areas.
Melioidosis, also known as Whitmore's disease, is an infectious disease caused by the Burkholderia pseudomallei bacteria, commonly found in the soil and surface groundwater of many tropical and subtropical regions, with diverse clinical presentations including pneumonia and severe sepsis with multiple organ abscesses.
Incidence of the disease was widespread in South-East Asia, Northern Australia and India, with climate change having a “substantial impact” on the spread of the disease to new areas such as Brazil.
There were an estimated 165,000 cases of melioidosis each year, of which as many as 89,000, or 54%, were estimated to be fatal.
Other potential vaccine candidates that the company was evaluating included those for Klebsiella pneumoniae, Escherichia coli, Burkholderia cepacia complex, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Acinetobacter baumannii.
“Melioidosis offers Poolbeg an opportunity to expand our portfolio of infectious disease assets, as promised at initial public offering,” said chief executive officer Jeremy Skillington.
“This is a disease which presents a dangerous and underappreciated threat to human health which currently has no approved vaccine and a very high mortality rate.”
Skillington said if the company could take MelioVac through clinical development to phase 2 status, it had the potential to generate “significant returns” for investors in the short-term while contributing to the global response to the threat of infectious diseases with an unmet medical need.
“We are excited by the potential of the MelioVac opportunity along with the other vaccine candidates in the UCD portfolio.”
At 1438 GMT, shares in Poolbeg Pharma were down 3.3% at 8.7p.