Strep A vaccine partnership raises hope for millions

Professor Michael Good
Professor Michael Good

Griffith University will partner with a Chinese pharmaceutical,Olymvax Biopharmaceuticals Inc., for a new vaccine that has the enormous potential to help millions.

Researchers from Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics have announced that they will begin Phase 1 clinical trials on a new, needle-free vaccine targeted at Streptococcus A infection, the cause of strep throat and rheumatic heart disease.

Griffith University signed the collaborative and license agreement with Olymvax to discover, develop and commercialise its Group A Streptococcus (GAS) vaccine technology exclusively for Greater China.

Strep A bacteria are responsible for a wide range of illnesses, from common infections like ‘school sores’ and strep throat, to deadly toxic shock and rheumatic heart disease. Even the rather gruesome sounding flesh-eating disease has this group of bacteria to blame. More than 500,000 people worldwide dieeach yearfrom diseases caused by these bacteria and indigenous Australians are especially vulnerable.

The researchers who developed the Liposome vaccine technology include Institute for Glycomics Principal Research Leader Professor Michael Good and Dr Mehfuz Zaman.

“The GAS vaccine has enormous potential to broadly impact human health,” said Professor Good.

“The availability of a safe and effective GAS vaccine could address a huge unmet public health demand, preventing a wide variety of potentially life-threatening complications and diseases in humans worldwide attributable to this organism.

“This collaborative partnership represents a significant milestone in the Institute’s commercialization success working together with partners to accelerate the commercial development of innovative vaccine candidates.

“This agreement is an important step forward in the international roll-out of our vaccine technology,” Professor Good said.

Griffith University Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Ian O’Connor welcomed the co-agreement and congratulated those involved.

Vaccine licensing deal

“This is a major vaccine licensing deal for the university, and is a wonderful outcome for the Institute for Glycomics, the researchers and Olymvax,” Professor O’Connor said.

“It is a perfectexample of Glycomics’ pioneering research, being further developed with great potential to benefit society at large,” he said.

China, as an emerging vaccine market, represents a major opportunity for the Institute for Glycomics.

“We are pleased to partner with the Institute for Glycomics to develop the GAS vaccine technology, which represent commercially validated targets for the treatment of Strep A,” added Olymvax BioPharmaceuticals Inc. Chairman, Mr Shaowen Fan.

“We believe that combining the Institute’s platform with Olymvax’s capabilities will help us rapidly develop these assets for the Chinese market.”

Institute for Glycomics Director, Professor Mark von Itzstein, said this partnership highlights the calibre of research being undertaken at the Institute.

Deadly pathogen

“We are delighted that Olymvax has collaborated with us and will take our basic knowledge that we have gone through in pre-clinical studies to end up with a vaccine candidate against this deadly pathogen.”

Queensland Minister for Health and Ambulance Services Cameron Dick said the agreement showcased the strength of Queensland’s world-recognised excellence in health and medical research, where great ideas can become reality.

“As a state, it is vital that we are attracting investment in this type of quality research and innovation which translates into improved health services and technologies – not just for Queensland, but globally,” he said.

“Initiatives like this further our government’s aim to explore and strengthen the contribution the health sector can make to Queensland’s economy.”

The Minister said collaboration was an integral part of the work at the Institute for Glycomics, a unique and world-leading centre in translational biomedical research for the discovery of 21st century drugs and vaccines that address existing and emerging diseases of global impact.

“Our government is a strong supporter of this outstanding initiative, which is recognising and harnessing the potential of new technology to better health outcomes,” he said.