18/03/2009 - 22:00

Ondek to marshal vaccine capital

18/03/2009 - 22:00

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AFTER a busy two years building a substantial research team and getting through a series of early trials, the start-up biotechnology business founded by Nobel Laureate Barry Marshall, Ondek, is seeking around $10 million to fund the next phase of its deve

Ondek to marshal vaccine capital

AFTER a busy two years building a substantial research team and getting through a series of early trials, the start-up biotechnology business founded by Nobel Laureate Barry Marshall, Ondek, is seeking around $10 million to fund the next phase of its development.

Based at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital precinct in Nedlands, Ondek has spent about $5 million during the past two years developing vaccine delivery via a genetically modified Helicobacter pylori bacterium.

It has already established a proof of concept in mice with an influenza vaccine and now the company is seeking patient, private capital during the next 18 months to fund the next round of testing, including the first stage of human trials.

Ondek executive chairman Peter Hammond said the successful trials signalled the company was on the right track with its four-pronged strategy, beginning with existing vaccines.

"It is pretty exciting," Mr Hammond said.

"That gives us huge confidence that the delivery methodology works."

If the first round of human trials is successfully completed, Mr Hammond said that the company would be revalued by the market and in a position to find big partners for large-scale human trials.

The company is aiming to compete with existing vaccines by offering a product it believes will be significantly cheaper to produce and allows oral application rather than by needle, as well as working better for longer.

Also on its hit list of opportunities are new vaccines, biopharmaceutical delivery and diagnostics.

Mr Hammond said the Helicobacter pylori bacterium - whose discovery led to Dr Marshall and his colleague Robin Warren winning the Nobel prize - would allow delivery of a vaccine, or potentially even multiple vaccines, to the stomach wall where it would live and replicate, theoretically enhancing the effectiveness of the vaccine.

Ondek already has 16 researchers led by chief scientist Mohammed Benghezal, recruited from Switzerland, working in facilities provided by the University of WA, an investor in the company.

"We have a team of people in Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital who are some of the world's leading microbiologists in this area," Mr Hammond said.

"It's a real expertise which will basically be the best in the world in this technology."

The development has been funded by a small group of private investors who provided seed capital, boosted by a $2.6 million Commercial Ready Grant from the federal government.

Mr Hammond is a founder of Sydney-based venture capital and private equity player Exto Partners, which specialises in working with scientists to develop their commercial platforms.

Other board members are: Swedish healthcare investment banker Lars Molinder; director of the Australian Research Centre for Medical Engineering at the University of Western Australia & Murdoch University, and Murdoch University Science & Engineering executive dean, Yianni Attikiouzel; Perth doctor Jeff Veling; and Professor Marshall.

 

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