The £4m raise was co-led by Science Creates Ventures and Octopus Ventures alongside Jonathan Milner and previous and new angel investors. The funding will enable Imophoron to progress a new class of thermostable vaccines based on cutting edge synthetic biology. Its technology has the potential to revolutionise the vaccine industry by increasing the speed of development whilst simultaneously eliminating the cold chain, transforming both shelf-life and distribution.
Here, Imophoron’s founder and CEO, Frédéric Garzoni, and Professor Imre Berger describe how they engineered the ADDomer™ particle:
Video courtesy of the University of Bristol.
This video was released in November 2019 and the Imophoron team could not have predicted how relevant their discovery would soon be. COVID-19 swept across the globe clearly demonstrating how important it is to rapidly develop vaccines.
At the core of the technology is a self-assembling particle, based on the human Adenovirus. Imophoron’s ADDomer platform has already produced a number of promising vaccine candidates for a variety of diseases including RSV, COVID-19 and Chikungunya.
Moving forward, harnessing the ADDomer’s properties will allow vaccines to be developed at unprecedented speeds as new virus particles and diseases arise. The company demonstrated the ability to create a COVID-19 vaccine candidate within just 5 weeks. Due to its unique properties, the vaccine delivery method can be tailored depending on where in the human body the disease occurs. Crucially, the vaccines are stable at room temperature meaning they could eliminate the cold chain. The combination of these three key features has the potential to tackle unknown future outbreaks (known as “disease X”’) head-on.
“This investment is a fantastic vote of confidence in the potential of our vaccine platform. I look forward to growing our team and progressing our first vaccine candidates toward the clinic. This is an important step in our mission to revolutionise vaccines which will hopefully lead to saving many lives across the world.”
The global network of ultra-low refrigeration logistics, such as freezer storage, sub-zero freight transport and cool boxes, keep vaccines at exactly the right temperature they need to stay functional. Also known as the cold chain, this presents a huge barrier to vaccine access for all countries, but particularly those with hot climates and intermittent electricity supplies. The ADDomer can solve these problems as the engineered protein is thermostable up to 55°C.
The implication of this is huge, as many current vaccines require constant refrigeration. Some of the newest vaccines based on mRNA such as the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for COVID-19 require arctic temperatures of around ˗80°C to be kept stable. Thermostable vaccines derived from the ADDomer platform could be transported and administered anywhere across the globe, with no refrigeration whatsoever at any stage of the vaccine’s journey from manufacturer to recipient. This could have an enormous and tangible effect on global access to healthcare, potentially slashing a disease’s impact.
ADDomer-based vaccines could be dispensed in a variety of ways, tailored to the disease at hand and where it affects the body. This includes intravenous, intramuscular and, perhaps most interestingly, intranasal delivery for respiratory diseases like COVID-19. As a result, future vaccine programmes could become much simpler, reducing our dependence on medically trained staff for injections, decreasing the associated costs and making the vaccination experience more comfortable.
The £4 million funding round, will enable Imophoron to develop its pre-clinical data on three disease targets: RSV, COVID-19 and Chikungunya. The company will continue to refine the heart of its technology – the ADDomer protein sub-units, and demonstrate that the vaccines are safe and effective. It will also enable Imophoron to develop a strategy for manufacturing vaccines at scale.