Poolbeg Pharma, 'Poolbeg' or the 'Company', a clinical stage infectious disease pharmaceutical company with a capital light clinical model, has signed an Option Agreement to licence MelioVac, a vaccine for melioidosis, with University College Dublin ('UCD') and its inventor, Associate Professor Siobhán McClean, through NovaUCD, the university's knowledge transfer office.
The Company will continue its due diligence on MelioVac, a preclinical asset and recipient of a Wellcome Trust Award to aid its development, as well as 5 of other potential vaccine candidates discovered by Associate Professor McClean and her team, for the duration of the Option Agreement, prior to signing a 'Licence Agreement'.
Dr McClean is Associate Professor and Head of Biochemistry at the UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science. Dr McClean completed her BSc in Biochemistry in UCD and received her PhD from Imperial College London. Her research focuses on lung infections which led her to develop a platform technology to identify proteins that bacteria use to attach to human cells. These proteins have proved to be excellent vaccine candidates.
Dr McClean completed some of the original research to identify the antigens associated with the Melioidosis Vaccine at TU Dublin.
Poolbeg Pharma has identified melioidosis as an infectious disease of interest due to its rising incidence around the world and because there is currently no approved vaccine available. Concerns are 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 bacterium Burkholderia pseudomallei, 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 is 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 are an estimated 165,000 cases of melioidosis each year, of which as many as 89,000 (54%) are estimated to be fatal.
Other potential vaccine candidates that the Company is evaluating include those for, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Escherichia coli (O157), Burkholderia cepacia complex, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Acinetobacter baumannii.
Melioidosis offers Poolbeg an opportunity to expand our portfolio of infectious disease assets, as promised at IPO. 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. If we can take MelioVac through clinical development to Phase II ready, it has 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."
Dr Jeremy Skillington, CEO, Poolbeg Pharma
Associate Professor Siobhán McClean, UCD School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science and inventor of MelioVac, said, "We are passionate about developing a vaccine against Melioidosis. Poolbeg Pharma is a great potential partner to work with, bringing its experience of vaccine development and industry connections to our innovative science. On the basis that a license is taken, it would be a great to see the development of MelioVac and other candidates, and contribute significantly to the world's renewed fight against infectious diseases."