Mercia EIS Funds

DTRA awards US$3.3m contract to psioxus therapeutics to develop biodefence vaccine adjuvants

OXFORD, UK – 16 January 2013 – PsiOxus Therapeutics, Ltd. (PsiOxus), a development stage biotechnology company, today announced the award of a US$3.3 million contract from the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to develop biodefence vaccine adjuvants using the company’s proprietary PolyMAP technology to help improve the safety and efficacy of two vaccines candidates: the recombinant Protective Antigen (rPA) for Anthrax and the Venezuelan Equine Encephalopathy Virus (VEEV). PolyMAP is an immunotherapeutic platform that combines polymers with synthetic adjuvants to significantly enhance the effectiveness of vaccines.

“We are honoured to have received this contract from the DTRA and excited at the prospect of helping to improve the safety and efficacy of these two very important vaccine candidates using the PolyMAP technology,” said Dr. John Beadle, CEO of PsiOxus Therapeutics. “Adjuvant platforms are key to innovating and growing the global vaccine market, and we are confident that our immunotherapeutic platform PolyMAP, along with our oncolytic vaccines expertise and team of renowned scientists, will play a significant and long-term role in the future of the industry.”

The contract will support work over a three-year period in the US, as well as in the company’s new state-of-the-art laboratory in Oxford, which has been designed and equipped as a category two laboratory for the handling of live viruses.
The global market for Human Vaccines is forecast to reach US$32.21 billion by the year 2017 [1], with key factors such as the growing pediatric population, world travel, and addiction driving market growth. The potential for significant growth and uptake of therapeutic vaccines is expected to further add to this significant growth potential in the longer term.

The PolyMAP Technology

Toll-like receptors (TRLs) function as first responders to danger signals and are significant to combat infectious and inflammatory disease. Identifying specific TLR ligands and binding them with a specific vaccine antigen enables the shaping of the immune outcome and provides a means of tuning vaccine formulations. While small synthetic TLR agonists are relatively inexpensive and simple to manufacture, they poorly reproduce the essential ‘pattern’ component of the larger natural TRL ligands.

The PolyMAP platform technology allows for the development of fully synthetic adjuvants using polymers to present adjuvant sub-units in a natural pattern, thus making them much more potent. By adjusting the specific TLR receptor classes targeted by PolyMAP, it is further possible to maintain this adjuvant potency but reduce the unwanted toxicities of the non-specific non-synthetic adjuvants. The platform’s key properties – increased receptor avidity through cooperative, multi-valent interactions, clustering of receptors through cross-linking and the improved solubility of TLR ligands that are otherwise difficult to use in their free form – make the PolyMAP technology unique and promising for enhanced adjuvant activity and safety.

[1] Global Industry Analysts, Inc.,” Human Vaccines – A Global Strategic Report”,