A vaccine against the dreaded Chikungunya fever, developed by Vienna-based biotech company Themis Bioscience, is now undergoing clinical testing for the first time. The vaccine, which is based on a standard anti-measles vaccine, offers a genuine opportunity to halt the spread of the disease, which was originally restricted to tropical countries. Due to a lack of vaccinations, the infection is now also becoming a growing threat to industrialized countries as a result of increased foreign travel. The vaccine that Themis is testing is based on the company´s own Themaxyn platform, which also forms the starting point for a second vaccine candidate against Dengue fever. Both vaccines have already shown a significantly higher efficacy than control groups in preclinical studies. The Chikungunya vaccine is currently being tested in a phase I clinical study at Vienna General Hospital (AKH).
Viennese biotech company Themis Bioscience GmbH today announced the start of a phase I clinical study on its Chikungunya fever vaccine. The vaccine candidate, which is based on a standard anti-measles vaccine, will be evaluated on 36 candidates in the Department of Clinical Pharmacology at Vienna General Hospital. A vaccine against this mosquito-borne infectious disease is urgently needed: the disease is spreading at an increasing rate in Africa and Asia, and the rise in long-distance foreign travel means that cases have also been reported in Europe and North America.
The primary goals of this recently launched study are to demonstrate the safety of the vaccine, as well as its ability to generate a strong immune response. At the same time, the study will provide the clinical "proof of concept" for Themis´ vector technology. This is based on the company´s own Themaxyn platform. Dr. Erich Tauber, founder and CEO of Themis, says of Themaxyn: "The Themaxyn platform is a further development of a standard anti-measles vaccine. In addition to its excellent safety and production profile, it has also proven its high efficacy millions of times over."
The Themaxyn platform offers yet another advantage: exceptionally long gene sequences of pathogens can be introduced into the patient´s immune system. This allows for the possibility of mobilizing immune responses against several pathogen cell structures with a single vaccine. This possibility is particularly interesting with regard to a second vaccine currently being developed by Themis - a Dengue fever vaccine. In the case of Dengue fever, four serotypes of the pathogen are actually known and immunization against one of them does not protect against infection by another serotype. If a person was previously infected by one of the other serotypes, the probability of being seriously affected by the disease rises considerably. Commenting on the use of the Themaxyn platform for a Dengue vaccine, Dr. Tauber says: "Because long gene sequences can be inserted, four epitopes - one from each serotype - can be expressed simultaneously, facilitating a tetravalent vaccine. The result is an effective vaccine that protects against all known serotypes simultaneously."
Themis expects to see results from this recently initiated study on the Chikungunya vaccine during 2014 - the company then plans to begin clinical testing of the Dengue vaccine. However, the Viennese biotech boutique has even more in the pipeline. The company has also secured options to develop vaccines against yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, West Nile fever and other unnamed indications, based on the Themaxyn platform. The ongoing and simultaneous development of several vaccine candidates at the Vienna location enables the company to sell vaccine candidates at the optimum time. The revenue is then reinvested in the company´s R&D to develop further vaccines.
About Themis (as of November 2013)
Themis Bioscience GmbH develops vaccines against infectious diseases. The company focuses on emerging tropical infectious diseases and develops vaccines from the preclinical to the early clinical phase. Initial vaccine candidates are currently being developed against Dengue, Chikungunya and yellow fever, with vaccines against other diseases a future possibility. The company´s own Themaxyn technology platform, which has been licensed by the internationally respected Pasteur Institute in Paris, forms the basis for all vaccine candidates of the Vienna-based company. This platform is highly innovative and fully protected by patents.