+Timos Papagatsias

Monday 25 April 2011

"Next generation vaccines" from Etubics Corporation

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Etubics Corporation is experimenting with developing new generation adenoviral-based vectors that can be used in vaccination protocols and other gene delivery approaches. The company's proprietary Adenovirus Vector Vaccine Platform (AVVP) technology can be used to construct gene delivery vectors that can be incorporated in vaccination protocols that require repeat administrations; according to the company's website, this is due to the extensive genetic deletions of the adenoviral genome which reduce vector-associated immunity issues. Etubics also claims that its adenoviral vector system can induce both antibody and cell-mediated immune responses, even in the presence of pre-existing adenovirus immunity. For those more interested in finding out some more about Etubics' AVVP, a recently published patent contains some more information.

An interesting point of discussion regarding Etubics investability is the fact that the potential for success for the AVVP technology still remains to be demonstrated through conclusive late stage clinical trials. The company has advanced various vaccine candidates (breast cancer, HIV amongst others) to preclinical stage but it has yet to conduct a large scale trial that will demonstrate successful application of its technology (according to the company's pipeline information webpage, a Phase III programme in colon cancer is due to start in 2013).

Currently, the company operates with grants and contracts from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the National Institute of Health (NIH). Additionally, extra investment has originated from private investors and company employees/owners. Etubics claims that it has brought its technology from "bench to bedside" with a total cost under $5 million (although a more realistic representation of the true costs incurred so far can be found in the company's factsheet, which sates that approximately $20 million have been spent on developing the AVVP technology).

It will be interesting to see how Etubics fares in the adenovirus-based vector field in the next 3-5 years, when its products will have progressed further along the clinical pipeline. A direct competitor to the company is Crucell (recently acquired by J&J), with its proprietary PER.C6 technology and its AdVac system that utilises rare serotype adenoviral vectors, thus avoiding or minimising issues of pre-existing immunity (but not necessarily avoiding issues with repeat administrations). In comparison, Etubics' vector system is based on serotype 5 adenoviruses, one of the most common strains.

We anticipate that positive clinical results will generate strong interest around Etubics and its AVVP technology both from private investors as well as large biotech/pharma companies that could use this technology to complement/strengthen their pipeline portfolio. The results from a Phase I trial with the company's carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) vaccine candidate, due to come out in the second half of 2011, should hopefully provide an indication of the technology's future potential.