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Novel vaccines and immunologicals – Beating the super bug

Absynth Biologics has been created with the initial goal of developing immunological prophylaxis and therapy to combat MRSA.  Absynth’s strategy is to exploit the characterisation of carefully selected novel proteins of Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) as immunological targets.
These novel targets will be developed as prospective vaccine components and for the production of prophylactic or therapeutic monoclonal antibodies (MAbs).

The market for an MRSA vaccine or therapy is large and growing in the UK and US; hospital acquired infections are an increasing public health concern and are responsible for a rise in the number of hospital deaths.
Worldwide 2 billion people carry some form of S. aureus; up to 53 m (2.7% of carriers) are thought to carry MRSA.

    In the US, S. aureus infections :
  • cause of 13% of the 2m hospitalised infections annually
  • representing 260,000 people with an infection of S. aureus
  • leading to between 60,000-80,000 fatalities.
    The average financial and human costs of in-patients with S. aureus infection are greater than compared to uninfected patients:
  • 3 times the length of hospital stay (14.3 vs 4.5 days)
  • 3 times the total charges ($48,824 vs $14,141), and
  • 5 times the risk of in-hospital death (11.2% vs 2.3%)

Scientific Context

S. aureus is a highly versatile, opportunist pathogen able to cause a wide range of infections including septicaemia, endocarditis and wound abscesses.  It is a primary cause of hospital acquired infections and is responsible for thousands of deaths each year.
The threat of the organism is compounded by its ability to gain resistance to antibiotics; methicillin resistant S. aureus (MRSA) is endemic in many UK hospitals.

MRSA are often resistant to many antibiotics and for some strains, the antibiotic vancomycin is the only useful drug. However, vancomycin resistance has now been reported. This alarming finding means that there is a pressing need to develop new treatments to combat S. aureus infections.
In addition, resistance to antibiotics is not confined to hospitals, but is also now emerging in the community. Drug resistance, compounded by the spread of strains, makes this a worldwide problem and “superbugs” such as MRSA pose a significant threat to human health.

For 60 years antibiotics have been the conventional treatment for bacterial infection and the antibiotic market is worth $37bn globally. However, antibiotic resistance is increasing to a number of the “older” products and the cost of treating nosocomial infections reported to be $7bn in the US alone.

New antibiotics are continuing to be developed – i.e. Daptomycin, Linezolid but it is likely that, over time, a similar pattern of resistance will develop and alternative strategies for dealing with MRSA and other “superbugs” are required.

The Absynth Biologics Concept

Absynth Biologics is a spinout company from the University of Sheffield based on ground-breaking research by the group of Professor Simon Foster in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology.

As well as developing immunological therapy, an attractive alternative to antibiotics is to generate protective immunity either through vaccination or following treatment with a protective monoclonal antibody. The Absynth Biologics concept uses an immunological approach to target a novel set of proteins and our aim is to create vaccines and prophylactic/therapeutic antibodies against S. aureus (MRSA) as well as other important pathogens.

Our protein targets, which have not previously been characterised, are important for the growth and/or pathogenesis of the bacterium and are carried by all clinically-relevant strains. Also, antibody-mediated inhibition of the function of these proteins may, in itself, prevent bacterial growth (they would be so-called “killer antibodies”).
Our initial research and development work has been centred around the proof of concept of the therapeutic and vaccine approaches including the validation of target criticality  and accessibility by the immune system. Lead candidates from this process are now being progressed through pre-clinical development and a number of patent applications have been filed around our initial findings.

Absynth Biologics is also expanding its IP portfolio by exploiting other anti-infective therapeutic approaches originating from Prof. Foster’s group.
These will be developed within the company and in collaboration with external partners.

Absynth Biologics

Absynth Biologics has been founded using investment from Biofusion plc.(www.biofusion.co.uk), an AIM listed company that invests in and commercialises IP from the Universities of Sheffield and Cardiff.

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