Adelaide biotech scores $18 million to develop vaccine against serious bacterial infections

Adelaide biotech scores $18 million to develop vaccine against serious bacterial infections

GPN Vaccines co-founders Tim Hurst, James Paton and Mohammed Alsharifi (Supplied).

An Adelaide-based biotechnology company developing a vaccine to combat a bacterium responsible for causing illnesses such as sinusitis and life-threatening pneumonia has secured $18 million in an oversubscribed Series B1 investment round co-led by Forepont Capital, Kern Capital and Shearwater Capital founding partner Mike Gregg.

GPN Vaccines was founded in 2017 by Tim Hurst, former deputy vice chancellor for research and innovation at the University of Sydney, alongside professors James Paton and Mohammed Alsharifi, who studied infectious diseases at the University of Adelaide.

The company is developing a vaccine against streptococcus pneumoniae – a bacterial pathogen that can cause illnesses such as middle ear infection, pneumonia and sepsis in the very young and elderly. Five months ago, GPN Vaccines announced it completed the first-on-human clinical trial in Australia to evaluate its pneumococcal vaccine, dubbed Gamma-PN, in people aged 50 to 69.

The Phase 1 trial found the vaccine was safe, with no serious adverse events following injection being administered. The vaccine was also well tolerated at a variety of dosages and able to induce an antibody response relative to the dosage.

“I am truly grateful for the tremendous support of our existing shareholders and the backing of new investors in our Series B1 investment round,” Hirst said.

“This will enable us to continue the clinical evaluation of Gamma-PNTM, invest in a pipeline of new vaccine opportunities and position the company for its next stage of development.”

According to the Victorian government, pneumococcal disease is a leading cause of serious illness and death among Australian children aged under 2 years old and adults aged 85 or older.

Other groups that are also at increased of infection are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, people who smoke tobacco and people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, lung disease, cancer or kidney disease.

Many people carry the bacteria in their nose and throat, transferring it to another person through droplets of salvia or mucus. The disease is estimated to kill around one million worldwide each year.

There are more than 95 different recognised strains of streptococcus pneumoniae, with no vaccine available to protect against all of them. There are currently two vaccines available in Australia to help prevent infection against the most common strains.

GPN Vaccines aims to develop a novel, whole-cell vaccine to provide adults and children with broad-spectrum protection against the disease regardless of the strain.

While the company initially aimed to raise around $15 million in the Series B1 round, it exceeded the target following strong support from current shareholders and new investors.

“We have backed GPN Vaccines in each of its last three investment rounds and are excited about the value of a pneumococcal vaccine that protects against serotypes not covered by existing licensed vaccines or other vaccines in development,” Forepont Capital partner Professor Ismail Kola said.

“We are delighted that this new round of funding will support the further clinical testing of Gamma-PNTM and the Company’s pipeline programs.”

Kern Capital general partner Jay Kern added the firm has been very impressed by the GPN Vaccines team and how much they accomplished in a capital efficient manner.

“We are delighted to support GPN Vaccines in furthering the clinical development of potentially the world’s first universal, serotype-independent pneumococcal vaccine,” he said.

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